[23 September 2010]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
On record, the Real McKenzies try to mesh Scottish folk with a punk sneer, but Shine Not Burn might present them in their best light. This record documents an acoustic set recorded live in Berlin, and the drunken, ramshackle results feel much more energized than most of the band’s recorded output. Front man Paul McKenzie leads the rabble here. He’s equal parts singer, storyteller, and barroom loudmouth as the band stumbles through fan favorites like “10,000 Shots” and turn in a pretty solid version of “Wild Mountain Thyme”—even if it begins with a false start. Of course, the album fails to hide the one flaw that’s piled up over the band’s history, and that’s a limited amount of subject matter. From “Drink The Way I Do” to “Pickled” to “Pour Decisions” and so on and so on, far too many of these songs are about drink, and not in that way that eventually reveals some other meaning. Nothing wrong with a bunch of drinking songs, of course, but even if you get caught up in the boozy frenzy of Shine Not Burn, in the end you’re bound to be hungover.