Maybe it’s not too broke to fix
It’s a thrill to give you (what you want)
It’s everything you dreamed of (what you want)
Put everything on plastic if you just don’t blow it
Everything’s going down …. whoooooooooooooooh!
But you just can’t stop it
Opening with a series of Ramones-esque “Yeah!”s, Eyes Lips Eyes’ impressive “Don’t Blow It” follows its own mantra by morphing immediately into a melodic pop romp through everything eighties. It’s a hook made from B-52s surf-pop with hints of Beach Boys in the background vocals, coupled with a tune which draws just enough from Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” to be immediately tip-of-the-tongue memorable. The song is currently streaming for free at Spinner, so you can hear for yourself, Co-produced by the band alongside John Goodmanson (Death Cab for Cutie, Nada Surf) and mixed by Mike Roskelly (Kaskade), the single is the perfect lead-off from What You Want (If You Want), the band’s four-song follow-up to their debut project Blue Red, which is sure to be the perfect blend of seventies-era post-punk, eighties new-wave hooks and the modern rock energy of the Strokes. This Los Angeles by way of Utah fouresome warrants some serious watching!
As the band members of Sister City scream at the end of “Hit Too Hard,” the first track on Sister City’s Carbon Footprint, they’re doing the same thing many other bands before them have done in the pop-punk realm, only they do it just a little bit differently. The album, as it develops, becomes more of a grunge or post-punk endeavor, with plenty of rocking elements to balance out the pop hooks.
But what’s most impressive about this album is that, unlike many of his peers, Adam Linder doesn’t seem bogged down in self-referential diary entries. These are lyrics with something to say. “How Much” is an album stand-out, a gloomy ballad with thudding percussion and bass providing the propulsion as Linder sings of war and the final frontier: “I want to know what I don’t know … I want to know what no one knows,” Linder sings, “or I will tread water and gracelessly sink below like death is a puzzle and I learned where all the pieces go.”
Still, he saves the best of his bile for himself on “Ellis Island Blues,” a wild ride of crunching guitars and full speed percussion as he imagines what his ancestors would think of his generation:
So I wander like the ancestors that I’ve forsaken
Where is my respect?
If my great-great grandparents had only known
That their great-great grandson
Would end up turning people into stone
Do you think they’d have set a fucking foot onto that boat?
I don’t, I don’t
Linder’s lyrics fit perfectly with the tone of the rest of the song, and “Ellis Island” (which originally was intended to open the album) proves to be the true centerpiece of an album which focuses as much on the self as the big picture. “Life is what you make of it,” he sings, “and I am on the verge of something big.” Indeed he seems to be, and Sister City’s Carbon Footprint is an auspicious debut.
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Purchase the album via the band’s Bandcamp page … you can name your own price for the download, and it’s only $5 if you’d like a hard-copy on CD … can’t beat that!
If you believe the overwrought hyperbolic press materials regarded by the band’s own website, The Burning Hotels have to be both the greatest songwriting band of the pop-punk era and the long-lost musical love-child spawned by a ménage-à-trois between The Hives, The Strokes and The Killers.
Some music fans and critics must be buying in; The Fort-Worth Weekly named the band’s EP Eighty Five Mirrors as the greatest album of 2007, and three of its songs made their list of the top ten songs of the decade. With advance word like that, you’d expect Novels, their full-length debut, to be the pop-punk Abbey Road, or at the very least a 2010 answer to The Strokes’ Is This It.
But indeed, this is not it.
The closest you’ll get the band’s hype machine to describing their music is the cryptically non-descriptive line: “forged under the inspiration of post-punk and angular melodies, the Burning Hotels cut through modern rock with driving sounds and propulsive rhythms.” Their melodies may be angular in that they feature tons of cutting guitar crunch, but the hooks themselves are unerringly repetitive; by the end of the album’s cycle, you’ll feel like you’ve heard the same thing a hundred times already.
Why? Because you have heard this music a hundred times before, most recently from the Hives, the Strokes and the Killers. Or, for that matter, on any album by contemporaries of those bands, on a myriad of albums which set themselves apart from the pack because they had something worth saying, or at least a catchy hook to corral us with.
Worse, the “propulsive rhythms” mentioned above are merely constant four-to-the-floor bass drum stomps, with some snare to complement on the backbeat. Beyond that, the band sounds like almost every other punk-pop group to come out in the latter half of the ‘00s, only without anything distinctive to make you want to continue to listen. Aside from “Boy Or A Girl,” the album’s only mildly interesting single candidate, there’s rarely room for even an ounce of verve. There’s also rarely room for more than three or four chords, which, liberally used throughout the album, lead to frequent self-plagiarism.
In the end, Novels could be said to suffer from all that misplaced, frantic promotional material, but even without that working against them, The Burning Hotels have a mediocre album here at best. Only now, their album will be heard by a wider audience with high expectations, which sets this album up for a freefall. The album itself is bland, repetitive and devoid of anything beyond by-the-numbers pop-punk, with nothing to help you remember who these guys are more than a couple listens from now.
In this case you can trust me; willful amnesia never felt so good.
Reprinted with permission from Stereo Subversion.