Thursday, June 12, 2008
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The Burning Hell conjures images of evil, but the band doesn't rely on the shock and fury of fire and brimstone. Instead Mathias Kom's witty, satire laced lyricism is as subdued as the gentle ukulele that accompanies it. If I tried to forge ahead with a comparison, I guess I'd lean toward the obvious Stephin Merrit/Magentic Fields, but unlike Merrit, Kom doesn't end up playing the role of the sad clown.
You don't have to look far past the second track, Dinosaurs, to appreciate what makes him so endearing as a song writer. Kom walks through an intro about Dinosaurs dying out, before drifting into a sincere praise of the "dinosaurs" that inhabit the small pubs playing songs we all know so well.
"You never made the cover of the Rolling Stone, but cover Rolling Stone songs very well."
The thought seems simple, but mixed with the bowed strings and ukulele picked riff, you can't help but feel the tenderness in which the song exists. And that honest, tenderness is exactly what makes every track on this record work.
Nor does he come off as maniacal as his moniker would imply. Even as he recites a ghost-like tale of murder and revenge on Grave Situation Pt. 1, it unfolds more like a Scooby Doo tale of fright than a horror story, one where you'd expect a disguise to be pulled away to reveal the villain. And like the spook-filled cartoon, the track is always enjoyable and engaging. Even on the Everything You Believe is a Lie, an emotional duet where her and Jill Staveley pass hurtful punchlines back and forth, the words hit like funny because it's true observations of common everyday life, as opposed to sharp tongued jabs.
While this might sound like a slag on the song writing, that assumption couldn't be farther from the truth. I'd much rather sit through a dark comedy that holds true to an underlying sincerity than I would a depressing epic, and with a terrific cast of supporting players and instruments, The Burning Hell is able to balance the smiles and the tears, the chuckles and the fears.
It's the type of record you can enjoy on almost any level. We featured The Burning Hell on our Best-of Ontario collection, and Happy Birthday proves they certainly deserved the distinction.