The Burning Hell – Revival Beach
B B * Island – 29 September 2017
On Revival Beach every song is essentially a build-up to the final event, where the final event is a) Supermoon, the album’s closing track and b) the end of existence. The Burning Hell songwriter Mathias Kom conflates those two conclusions into one big, apocalyptic party, but while the themes are grandiose the delivery is basically lighthearted if at times a little faux-grumpy. At the knees-up for the end of days down on Revival Beach, cherry-picked bits of mankind’s mottled history are chucked in the punchbowl together: there is gin and juice and there are lutes, waterboarding and cockney rhyming slang, karaoke and the cha-cha-cha. It’s a small epic of a song, a postmodern melange in which the characters from the album’s previous tracks meet and mingle, and the positivity of the message is a welcome surprise.
How did we end up here? Well, in Kom’s case, it was by doing what he does best: writing funny, literate character sketches and bouncy, rattly, indie tunes. And because Kom is always prepared to go above and beyond the call of songwriting duty, these songs are thematically linked by protagonists who are all in some way approaching an apocalyptic event. Opener Friend Army is a sharp piece of alt-rock whose lyrical thrust takes aim at the logical fallacy leads people from friendship to war. Nurse And Patient is classic Kom: an odd couple thrown together by fate and a trigger-happy cop (the lute in Supermoon first appears here, at the unlikely wedding). Tith lyrics are resigned, witty and hopeful, and the ramshackle musical approach like a less intense Violent Femmes. Canadian Wine (featured in a recent FRUK show here), punctuated by rustic hurdy-gurdy drones, tells of a different wedding from a different point of view, while The Troll (sung by Kom’s musical partner in crime, Ariel Sharratt) delves into the dark recesses of the internet’s bunker-dwelling doomsayers.
The River (Never Freezes Anymore) is one of the most upbeat songs about climate change and incipient teenage longing you’re ever likely to hear, with Sharratt joining Kom on the chorus like Cassie and David Berman on the later Silver Jews albums, while on Mr Sensible the pair perform a surreal but oddly touching duet. The Babysitter, meanwhile, is a condensed wartime espionage thriller with some imaginative rhyming and some even more imaginative plot twists (concerning the theory that Hitler fathered a child with Unity Mitford).
In Minor Changes, Kom uses the device of a letter from an editor to a writer of post-apocalyptic fiction. The resulting tone is of a kind of intentionally banal irony, reminiscent of Adam Green post-Moldy Peaches output. The Last Night (another Sharratt lead vocal) also channels Green’s brand of anti-folk, but with a touch of Leonard Cohen, and a sophisticated smattering of brass and Spanish guitar which perfectly captures the barroom loneliness of the lyrics.
The Burning Hell’s previous album, Public Library, was tantalisingly open-ended, almost wilfully unfinished, and was easily one of the best records of 2016. Revival Beach is, by contrast, about the end of everything. But it is no less wise, funny or musically assured than its predecessor. Kom’s writing is a breath of fresh air, and I can think of few songwriters I’d rather spend the apocalypse with.
The Burning Hell Upcoming Dates
21.11. Glasgow UK – The Hug & Pint (w/ Pocket Knife) Tickets
22.11. Manchester/Salford UK – The Eagle Inn (w/Granfalloon) – SOLD OUT
23.11. Durham UK – The Empty Shop HQ (w/ Nana Grizol) – SOLD OUT
24.11. Sheffield UK – The Harley (w/ Sieben) Tickets
26.11. Ramsgate UK – Ramsgate Music Hall Tickets
27.11. London UK – Birthdays (w/ Gabriel Moreno) Tickets
29.11. Hamilton ON – This Ain’t Hollywood (w/ Wax Mannequin and Dog Is Blue)Tickets
30.11. Toronto ON – The Burdock (w/ Steven Lambke) Tickets
01.12. Guelph ON – Silence (w/ Blimp Rock) Tickets
02.12. Montreal QC – Cagibi (w/ Michael Feuerstack)
05.12. Halifax NS – Gus’ Pub (w/ Owen Meany’s Batting Stance)
08.12. St. John’s NL – The Ship
Revival Beach is out now. Order via Amazon