Burden Brothers – Mercy
By Zach Patterson Thursday, 1 Mar 2007

In some respects, I feel like listening to this new Burden Brothers album is like catching up with an old friend, only to find out that they’ve taken a drastically different path than the last time you saw them. 2003’s Buried in Your Black Heart was a great album that was a mix of rock, punk, and old fashioned southern rock. In many ways, it was an amalgam of the two leading forces of the band, Vaden Todd Lewis of The Toadies, and Taz Bentley from Reverend Horton Heat, which to me was a very good thing. This new album, over 3 years later, is a considerably different beast.

The album is considerably more varied than the last album, which was a straight up rock n’ roll affair. This one starts with a moody slow paced “It’s Time”, which is actually a pretty great intro to the album. Very unexpected, but sets a mood instantly. However, the album changes pretty abruptly into the more standard rocker “Shine”, which is a bit of the old Burden Brothers style, but lacks a certain catchiness in the chorus. Lewis’ voice here is also significantly harsher than in the past, perhaps a result of age or just an edge he’s trying to add to the song. The biggest issue I have with this album is that it feels like the band is trying to do too much out of their range and out of the style that made them popular and liked by me. And while traveling out of their range, the return is sadly very mediocre. Their big single, “Everybody is Easy (We Sink/We Swim)” is one of the more catchy songs on the album, but I can’t help but be bothered by odd and annoying vocal quirks Lewis displays at the beginning of the song. It’s like intentionally singing in a sappy, goofy manner that doesn’t fit the song. The song itself also is pretty standard pop-rock fair. “She’s Not Home” suffers from some just terrible lyrics that make it hard to listen to. It’s a largely cheesy ballad that really doesn’t connect with me at all.

“Life Between” doesn’t fare much better, as it feels like generic-piano-ballad-on-big-rock-album that again just feels out of the Burden Brother’s spectrum of music. It’s not necessarily a terrible song, it just isn’t particularly memorable. It reminds me of an old Creedence Clearwater Revival song, which, don’t get me wrong, I love CCR, but I’m not looking for that here. The questionable lyrics continue in “Trick of Logic” with what I can’t help but picture the Bill Withers’ song “Lean on Me”, both in terms of what is sung and the overall sappiness of the song. “Goodnight From Chicago” is one of the more solid songs here musically, but again, what’s with the lyrics? The chorus just doesn’t fit at all. Why is it goodnight from Chicago? What’s that have to do with the rest of the lyrics? On “I Am A Cancer”, we start off with generic nu-rock riffs and a generally unlikeable, generic, sludgy song. The rock album cliche parade continues with “Daughter of Science”, a slow moody rocker with more lyrics that I just cannot connect to. I’m not asking for genius lyrics here, but when it’s distracting to me, there’s something wrong. The combo of “Mercy” and “On My Own” are a nice acoustic instrumental into a soft, upbeat love song. This is still quite a bit different than I expected, but I can appreciate this on its own with no expectations. Liberated puts a decent end, with a catchy chorus and a nice closer quality, to this otherwise puzzling album.

I have read through their manifesto/press release of sorts about this album which left me with even more questions than answers. I mean, there’s a lot of talk of concepts flying around on this album and varying their original sound, but I just fail to see how any of this gels on this album. It’s a mish-mash of rock cliches and songs that aren’t consistently engaging. There’s a few decent songs here, but on the whole this album is overwhelming disappointing. There’s too many songs, and tons of filler. I hate to continue to judge an album by its predecessor, but the change is almost too much to the regular fan who just picks this up thinking it will be in a similar style. I mean, even the band itself has completely changed. How do you go from southern rockers:

…To mascara wearing douchebags:

…in one album? It’s just too much. I mean, Vaden Todd Lewis is in his 40’s, isn’t that a little late to change your “look”? That really has nothing to do with how the album sounds, but it’s kinda strange nonetheless. Like I opened with, it’s like seeing an old friend, but now he’s wearing mascara and seems completely different, and you aren’t sure what to think.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think. But I know I didn’t really like this album.


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