[25 July 2004]
The Burden Brothers are not a burden to anyone. The group, whose members have had stretches in various bands from the Toadies to Izzy Stradlin (the only sane G’n'R member!) to Reverend Horton Heat, released this latest album nearly a year ago. But don’t expect this to be the last you’ll hear of them. The tandem of Vaden Todd Lewis and Taz Bentley got the attention of Dallas engineer John Kirtland on this album, and it’s perhaps their best yet overtly radio-friendly album. Beginning with a garage rock rave-up that sounds like Sammy Hagar fronting the Hives on the title track, it’s a simple ditty that turns into a larger hair-band era format with the swagger of bands like Buck Cherry. “What if I fall for you?” they ask before a fleeting guitar solo plays with the frets a la Angus Young circa “Thunderstruck”.
Thankfully, they get better with the tension-driven, foot-stomping “Shadow”. It’s a great and aggressive radio-friendly rock tune along the lines of groups like Big Wreck and now Thornley—big meaty riffs and a chorus that never misses the mark. What makes it groove even more is the bridge, which sounds alternative but classic at the same time. The rhythm section tends to steal this tune for the most part, especially the drumming aspect of it. Another kicker is the power pop of “Beautiful Night”, which could be mistaken for Canadian Hawksley Workman. Here Lewis and Bentley are definitely on the same page as the chorus has oodles of riffola. The Plant-like vocals at the bridge are somewhat hard to swallow but the music makes it totally forgivable. The Burden Brothers also flesh out the song with a well-deserved repeating of the chorus as it winds down and fades out.
The primal drumming and boogie-fried “Come On Down” has more in common with Led Zeppelin and Nashville Pussy in terms of its pacing and feel, mixing a raucous guitar solo alongside a great, knee-quivering beat. The Burden Brothers slow things down before getting a second wind and nailing the conclusion with great enthusiasm. If there’s one drawback, it’s the type of tune you want certain parts to continue for four of five minutes at a stretch or until the musicians playing it pass out from fatigue. It’s perfect summer rock festival set-closing material. The first quasi-clunker comes in the form of the tired gin-soaked vocals on “You’re So God Damn Beautiful”, which brings to mind Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd or Alabama Thunderpussy. The cliché guitar riffs don’t help things either.
What follows is pure filler material on the power ballad “If You’re Going to Heaven”, with its prodding beat and slow, dinosaur-like style which makes one want to throw out their cigarette lighters and not raise your hand overhead to see it flickering. It sadly comes off as a barroom band trying to do a Queen song, resulting in a messy little affair. The Burden Brothers get back to some sense of normalcy with the murky grunge sounds of “Do For Me” that has a lot in common with Soundgarden or early Pearl Jam. The dark and murky bass line is what makes it tick and gel so nicely, although the chorus is rather simple. “Walk Away” and its throwaway punk plan are filler and sound like a group going through a rather hectic series of bland motions.
The gem by far is the mid-tempo roots style of “Walk Away” with its great, Southern groove that groups like the Black Crowes will long be remembered for. Far more pop than rock, the chorus doesn’t overdo it despite the vocals trying to be a tad over-the-top in spots. The last few songs tend to put a dampen on things and come off like filler, especially the rather uninspired “Let It Go” which sounds like a shell of the band’s earlier offerings. The Burden Brothers are decent, but a couple of songs could’ve been shelved here.