The evidence is overwhelming: Mathias Kom’s brain is a library. Making it public and available to the masses is what The Burning Hell have been doing over seven albums in nine years. The “distorted story-songs” of Public Library ups the ante, though, feeling more like an interconnected volume of short stories, worthy of distinguished writing prizes, critical discourse, and ravenous binge reading.
“The band was as blue as the melted Joni Mitchell cassette / on the dash of the van they had nicknamed regret,” explains the first line of “The Road”, an ode to years touring the world, forced onto the road to make a living, and forced off it by a bummed-out van in the middle of England: “Their lives flashed before them in a slideshow of backstages and bars / as the van slowed down amidst the oncoming cars / they pulled over and the called for a tow.” Over five minutes and a rock-steady beat, Kom, Ariel Sharratt, Nick Ferrio, Jake Nicol and Darren Browne make wistful pop rock as expressive as the words it accompanies. I can’t tell if the sound of engines failing and metal crashing to a halt is all Sharratt’s clarinet or a guitar-clarinet combo, but no matter, it’s brilliant.
Equally as stunning and exhaustively verbose, “Fuck The Government, I Love You” (originally appearing on last year’s Don’t Believe The Hyperreal project from Sharratt and Kom, here expanded and extended) could be the basis for a Hollywood hipster romantic comedy, or the makings of a life-long story on the origins of love. Either way, you’ll be hard-pressed keeping up with Sharratt and Kom as they trade vocals mid-line/sentence like it was a two-hander written by David Mamet.
If you’re never sure whether to laugh, cry, snicker or marvel at Public Library, then The Burning Hell has done its job. “When you’ve got reality, who needs to make up stories?” Kom asks on closer “Nonfiction”, never telegraphing to the listener whether he believes his own line. It’s no matter though; the humour of these“distorted story-songs” balances the heartache of human nature, mixing an ounce of honesty with a fraction of fiction. Public Library a priceless treasure you’d happily hold on to forever. Fuck late return fees; The Burning Hell, I love you.