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Burning Airlines | Identikit | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop
by Tim Den
Let me just say upfront that I think Burning Airlines is the single most viable, potent, and "perfect" rock band today. Their purpose, self-awareness, and reference points, all of which are absent from most other bands today trying to flog the dead horse that is guitar rock. Burning Airlines' purpose is to create a sonic tapestry that's complex in structure (melodic arrangements, rhythmic trickery, surprising syncopations) yet with each instrument having its own identity and never crossing each other. With this agenda, not only does each instrument (including ex-Jawbox J. Robbins' intense word play) work extra hard to have its voice heard, the way they meticulously wrap around each other to fill space shines through like the brightest of lock-and-keys. The members of Burning Airlines understand that, with only a conventional power-trio, you must excel in accompanying each other if you're looking to achieve this level of complexity. And fuckin' A do they understand.
Of course, this kind of deep understanding wouldn't be possible without self-awareness. The songs on Identikit sound as if the band sat down and mapped out musical equations for each song, each instrument in the song, and each logical harmony/syncopation. Even the individual syllables of sarcasm, regret, and longing are flawlessly written and chosen. I mean, c'mon, you don't come up with this kind of instrument interaction - where every note and beat is somehow perfectly situated with the rest of the band (music theory, music theory), yet with plenty of breathing room for all - by blindly jamming away. The band's purpose simply couldn't be achieved without introspective analysis, and - without such self-awareness, discipline, and knowledge. Think about it: A power trio with as much musical content as an orchestra? How're you going to pull that off without knowing exactly what holes to fill and how to fill 'em?
Unlike almost all rock bands today, Burning Airlines realize that there was music before guitars became gods. One listen to the verses of "Outside the Aviary" and the entirety of "A Lexicon" and the motion of "The Deluxe War Baby" and you'll no longer wonder why your songs suck so much compared to theirs. It's called jazz. Look it up. Whether it's the abundance of sevenths or the swing-style tempo, this band has done their homework. You wanna create something as innovative as these guys? Start by looking before Elvis, buddy.
The most amazing thing is that these guys still rock your fucking ass. Just because they're intelligent and superior musicians doesn't mean they've forgotten how to connect emotionally. The heat of the beat, the thrill of the crunch, the power of electric amps... delivered in a capsule produced by Harvard-level minds. There is no other band out there like Burning Airlines.
(PO Box 60932 Washington, DC 20039)