Friday, April 8, 2016

Twisting in the Public Library

As Burning Hell frontman Mathias Kom recently revealed, Public Library (his band's new album, released last week and available here), was basically written to spite a critic who took issue with the wordiness of Kom's songs:
"At some point, I read a negative review...that criticised me for being too verbose. I'm pretty sure the writer used the word 'clever' in an uncomplimentary way as well, the way you would use it when speaking about your friend's obnoxious six-year-old. And, just like an obnoxious six-year-old, my response was to start writing songs that exaggerated the verbiage of People [Public Library's predecessor, released in 2013] into downright logorrhea."
The resulting LP is kind of like a musical adaptation of Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveler: eight short stories covering eight different genres, each one paired with a fab pop/rock/indie accompaniment. The Road is a music biography with a splash of magical realism; Nonfiction is a romance novel, albeit one delivered with a good deal more subtlety than that genre is perhaps accustomed to. The album's lead single, Men Without Hats, is a kind of coming-of-age story about becoming obsessed with music for the first time, an experience to which I'm sure most of the people reading this can relate:

This all makes for great listening, of course; unlike that critic, I think The Burning Hell sound best when they're being super-verbose, and I'm sure the majority of the band's fans would agree with me. Mathias Kom is a great storyteller with a great sense of humour, and there are loads of little moments here that will make you grin, whether its the band's cheeky nod to the Violent Femmes in Men Without Hats or the bit where Kom rhymes 'private ears' with 'privateers' in The Stranger.

Still, like any good book, the best bits of Public Library are the unexpected plot twists. There are quite a few over the course of the album, but before I go any further, I should make it clear that there will be SPOILERS from here on out - seriously, if you haven't already listened to Public Library, I'd strongly encourage you to go and do so instead of ruining it for yourself by reading on.

Okay? Okay. Here are my five favourite twists from the songs that make up Public Library:

5. The Stranger
A disgraced ex-priest and his girlfriend take shelter in the home of Mathias Kom's narrator and reveal that they are on the run from the woman's ex-boyfriend, a murderous "gorilla of a man" who is also a deacon. The twist? Kom turns out to be one of the deacon's spies, and he shoots his guest with a crucifix-shaped pistol while reminding him that he should "never talk to strangers".

4. Nonfiction
More of a musical twist, this one; after several minutes of slow, subdued, and slightly ethereal music (described as both 'doom gospel' and 'Hawaiian neo-swing' on TBH's Bandcamp page), Mathias Kom leaves off the final word of his lyric - I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be 'sex' - and the band suddenly, unexpectedly leap into a double-time, clarinet-led jam that hops us right up to the end of the record.

3. Give Up
In one of the album's best laugh-out-loud moments, Mathias a garishly-dressed mystery woman in a car park. Without saying a word, she hands him "a package wrapped in brown" that turns out to contain...secret dossiers? A bomb? No: it's "a framed poster of a kitten saying 'never give up'", which naturally prompts Kom to give up on the spot (he's not a fan of "stick-to-it-iveness", apparently).

2. Two Kings [Twist #1]
This entire song is predicated on a twist, that twist being that Michael Jackson and Elvis aren't dead after all. In fact, they're living together in a remote log cabin in Ontario, where their cloying fans and the general public will never find them. But then there's a twist to the twist, because...

1. Two Kings [Twist #2]
 ...eventually, their cloying fans do find them, and the 'two kings' respond by entering their secret launch codes and triggering nuclear armageddon as they broadcast one final, haunting duet to the world:

"No, you'll never see us again..."

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