Thursday, May 9, 2013

LENGTHWISE: The Burning Hell - People

It's pretty interesting that the first song ("Grown-Ups") on People, the new album from The Burning Hell, sounds like a bittersweet lament of what might have been. This is a band whose last record, Flux Capacitor, traded quite heavily in the joys of nostalgia. A shift in tone this abrupt is quite telling; these St. John's upstarts once content to unleash their ambitions on song cycles about life cycles have now turned their ambition towards the songs themselves.

People still has that unique blend of deadpan vocals (the dulcet baritone of Mathias Kom) and klezmer stomp, but there is a tender side to Kom's lyrics (particularly on "Travel Writers" and the aforementioned "Grown-Ups") that pushes the album and the band out of the novelty-song dugout. It's an alternate-universe Yo La Tengo, with reed instruments.

Perhaps the world record amount of touring has turned Kom's previous fixation on death into a mellower, yet more world-weary fixation on life's variety. The record's theme, resonant on the stand-out  up-tempo "Amateur Rappers" (sure to be a live favourite) seems to be that of human potential. We are all capable of doing anything, Kom asserts, no matter how trivial. This theme finds it's obvious conclusion on album closer "Industrialists", an epic that sounds like Leonard Cohen's lost Lee Hazlewood sessions. It may be easy to make broad generalizations about all people everywhere, but it takes a certain maturity and perspective to make broad generalizations so simple that they are irrefutably true. "It takes all kinds of people to make a world" is a pretty basic statement to make, but it's wise beyond The Burning Hell's years.


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