[31 January 2008]
Softly strummed, folk-and-pop based psychedelia got its start in Southern California with the Byrds and Love. Biirdie, out of Glendale, has quite clearly been drinking the Byrd’s Kool-Aid, fusing easy, melodic song structures to space-rocking effects. Mostly, the band stays on the pop side of the seesaw, ever so subtly stretching the form into elongated, miasmic shapes. “LA Is Mars”, for instance, is pure, glistening 1970s pop on the surface, its love-weary lyrics punctuated by gentle piano fades. There’s a lover waiting in the rain, a sense of alienation and ineffable weary sadness, all the ingredients for moody reverie, and yet as the song uncoils, it gains heft—gospelly harmonies, resilient drums building. And then, at some point, it is no longer traditional pop, no longer a measured progress through time, but a single swirling moment inside it that enfolds in spiraling guitars and dayglo colors. Later on, “Careless & Unconcerned” pulls the same sort of trick, pulling its sweet, innocent folkiness into otherworldly shapes. And even “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of”, a willfully silly Texas Tornados cover, is ever so slightly off-center, its roller-rink keyboards and massed vocal choruses right on the hairline between tribute and parody. The whole thing slips into a vortex near the end, a howl of distortion gobbling up everything pop about it, and then, just as suddenly the song rights itself and coasts giddily to its end. Blink and you’ll miss it. Rub your eyes and you’ll convince yourself that there was nothing weird about Biirdie at all.