Starting off sounding like a Midwestern band gone Seattle on “Quick,” the Book-Burners quickly establish themselves as a band loathe to embrace modern trends on People’s Songs, their debut full-length release on Latest Flame.
However, despite being a band that looks backward in terms of sonic dimensions, the advantageous part is that they’re doing so from a remove of a decade and a half, meaning they’ve the ability to pick and choose, keeping the good bits and discarding that which doesn’t work. There’s some early R.E.M. angularity, the droning fuzz of In Utero-era Nirvana, some Kill Rock Stars looseness … it’s fun.
People’s Songs most frequently resembles R.E.M., due in no small part to singer Brad W.’s voice sounding like a more careworn version of one Mr. Stipe’s. Its nasal whine is offset by guitarist Eliza R.’s fragile backing vocals, and both combine to present a vulnerable counterpoint to the robust instrumentation.
Lovely worker’s art on the gatefold jacket, and the heavy-duty vinyl sounds fanstastic. It’s as clean a vinyl release as I’ve heard in a while, and the production of the Book-Burners’ album is just wonderful. Vocals are balanced nicely with the instrumentation. There’s a guitar solo on “Complications” which sings through loud and clear while the rest of the band rumbles on, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
“Who Are You to Say?” does sound almost exactly like Matthew Sweet singing over “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog,” though. It’s kind of disconcerting, kind of amazing, and certainly made me stop doing everything I was in the middle of the first time I heard it.
On an off-handed note, given the lyrical and artwork similarities, the Book-Burners should totally play a show with Red Kate if they ever come through Lawrence or Kansas City. It’s nice to see not one, but two Midwestern bands flying the flag of revolution these days.
You can buy the Book-Burners’ People’s Songs from the Latest Flame store om 150-gram black vinyl.