Digital revolution be damned, there's no use listening to Bazaar Bazaar, the debut from Birds of Avalon, on your computer: That is, unless your hard drive is hooked up to some big, wood-grain cabinet speakers. Worry-warts and hangers-on have been crying that "Rock ain't dead" for a decade, a reaction fueled by the growing fear that rock proper—or rawk, or RAWK—was being eaten up by a pestilence of techno, hip hop and indie pop. But it wasn't going to happen then, and it likely never will. Rock's still got a throbbing hard heart, and Birds of Avalon—descendents of a lineage that crosses Cherry Valence paths through The Weather and Dynamite Bros. territory—are right there in the right ventricle.
Birds of Avalon formed in 2004 when bassist (now guitarist) Paul Siler and guitarist Cheetie Kumar left The Cherry Valence. Now a five-piece led by Craig Tilley's high-end delivery, they gaze toward a past of low-end riffage wielded by precise, jousting, hair-tossing, two-guitar interplay. They're technically grooving on the same ramalama ballroom blitz as their New York pals Oneida, but these Birds don't complicate the chops and spirit (see "Bicentennial Baby" or "Taking Trains") with noisy extensions or gurgling abstraction. They do mix up the tempo here, alternating into a few throwaway smoky asides, but they're at their best when screaming through a gut-puncher. It's been done before, after all, and they're not trying to make new 21st-century music. Instead, they're cribbing hard on Cheap Trick's hookiness and on multiple guitars harmonizing on one phrase (like Skynyrd) without irony. West Coasters Redd Kross did it 20 years ago, in the shared knowledge that KISS is really just bubblegum anyway, and that was just fine with them.
It's less a stylistic revival than "Hey bros, let's just have fun." A record like this comes off a little flat, but it makes you want to be closer to the front at their next show because you need to be able to get surrounded by the stuff, dirty your jeans and expel some sweat. That's why it's a tough nut that this record's release party also marks the closing of their spiritual home down on South McDowell Street. —Chris Toenes
Birds of Avalon play Kings on Saturday, April 7, with Black Taj, The Greatest Hits, The Loners, The Dynamite Brothers and more. To hear cuts from Bazaar Bazaar, see www.indyweek.com.