Matthias Kom has written a novel, a real bastard of a piece that has clawed fragments of his universe together and horse stitched them into a monster of imagination and pop culture. Then he goes and sings the whole thing, like Finnegan’s Wake set to music, except more enjoyable.
The Burning Hell released Public Library, their ninth album in ten years, on April 1st, and in their ludicrously loquacious style they’ve made good on the promise of their album title.
I can only imagine how many books Matthias Kom personally ingested to produce this sort of output, but he’s undoubtedly managed it with words to spare. Let’s put it another way: there is an average of 102 words per song on The Beatles’ Abbey Road. Kom unrelentingly clocks in somewhere around 463 words per song on Public Library. I counted. As far as getting the most bang for your buck, there’s at least a few albums worth of material here.
The concept of dancing away to Finnegan’s Wake doesn’t exactly jive, particularly to anything other than a jig, but as Kom reels off his tales to pop waltzes and pop rock it’s better than Shakespeare with all of his rhyming couplets. Shakespeare never wrote songs about Michael Jackson and Elvis living together in seclusion in northern Ontario. It’s more like Shakespeare and Tarantino had a child who could only speak in a constant screed of verse; Pulp Fiction meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The opening song is a lyrical broadside about a pair of lovers on liaison, running from a jealous gorilla of a boyfriend. The couple seek shelter with a stranger, our narrator, and explain to him their circumstances, and the danger.
“I then figured them for bandits or confidence artistes
When I saw the two-tone collar I knew he was a ska fan or a priest
He noticed me notice and said I observe your observation
Of the sartorial memorial of my spiritual vocation
I wear this habit out of habit, my service has been shoddy
As you can maybe guess I can’t resist the temptations of the body
To my ex-boss Old Jeezy this is all yesterday’s news
But yes this lady is my lover and I am her lover too”
The story plays out in detail, while the song hooks you with a comparatively simple saxophone solo that leaves you wondering why you’ve been humming these sporadic notes for days.
Building from there, the album keeps delivering. Where Shakespeare failed, they’ve succeeded in giving us that tale of the Kings of Pop and Rock planning their come back tours. There’s a waltz about half heard conversations in a crowded party called ‘Fuck The Government, I Love You’, and the wonderfully meta ‘Men Without Hats’ about discovering music.
Public Library is a rare example of being simultaneously brilliant, and hilarious in an album that is at least half serious. I’m never sure whether I’m supposed to dance, laugh, or just take in the story.
The Burning Hell will begin the European leg of the Public Library Tour later this month, but expect to return through the Maritimes sometime this fall. For more information visit www.wearetheburninghell.com