Birdland is a Toronto, Canada-based quintet whose 1990 debut album, "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank", combines wall-to-wall brashness with a healthy sense of stylistic tradition-not to mention a twisted sense of humor.
"We got the name from a fried chicken shack we saw in Rochester a few years back," says Louise "Sal" Reny. "We went through band-name picking hell and then finally realized we wanted a name that held some meaning for us."
Getting rid of baggage is a recurrent theme on Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a CD that's loaded with spot-on-and often cynical-takes on life, relationships, and introspection. Sal and co-writer Leslie Howe, the band's guitarist and producer, cook up accessible alterna-pop songs with barbed hooks, which the band-guitarist Mike Goyette, bassist Tim Dupont and American drummer Sonny "Panhead" Puleo bash out with controlled abandon. On tracks like the first single, "Love Is Groovy", which doesn't take long to pay off on its blatantly ironic title, the singer's plaintive yet compelling voice squeezes every ounce of pleasure and pain out of the screwed up lyrics. "That song pretty much sums up my past involvment with our current drummer, Sonny", Sal explains. "If you're listening casually, it can seem like a happy-go-lucky song, but dig deeper and you'll find the rest of the story."
"Sal and I met in high school and started playing in bands around 11th grade," Howe recalls. "We're completely compatible musically, but we fight as much as ever."
Along with its hard-eyed reality checks, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank contains a double shot of female empowerment. From the subversive singalong "So Fucking Happy" to the downbeat "Wonderful World," Sal taps into a vital vein of contemporary life.
As the pair matured artistically, the Zeppelin covers that formed the backbone of their club sets gave way to originals-which have been in a constant state of evolution ever since. Howe branched into production and produced and co-wrote Alanis Morissette's first two albums through his own label Ghetto Records, which also debuted Sal's Birdland in 1994. The album made an immediate impact on the Canadian indie charts-but why stop there? "We're basically a fucked up pop group," says Sal. "The music and lyrics are happy and mad at the same time. And the more time we spend together, the more natural it became for us to come up with those kinds of songs." While the buzz built in the States, the quintet returned to Howe's Distortion Studio to record additional material with producer Michael James (Hole, L7, LunaChicks, the Reverend Horton Heat), and the best ended up on the Stateside release of "Nude Photos Inside"....