Burden of Proof - Moonstruck Album Review
by Joel Caris
This week brings a slight change of pace for Lo-Fi. I'm reviewing the new album, Moonstruck, from Burden of Proof, an indie rock band from Los Angeles. I haven't done a real, dedicated album review yet here on Faster Than The World, so this should be exciting. Or it should be a review, which I suppose isn't always the most exciting of articles to read. But I promise if you read it all the way through, you'll feel like a rock star. Seriously.
I had not heard of Burden of Proof before being sent this CD. My guidance on the band was pretty much what you read above—they're an indie rock band from LA. Armed with this formidable knowledge, I dived into the album, giving it a couple listens so I could begin to form an opinion, which is often how I approach CDs. First there's the listening, then there's the deciding. I'm thinking of patenting the process.
The album opens well with a catchy track. There's a solid backing guitar riff and the voice of Neil Gall, the lead singer, comes through nicely over the instrumentation. Right off the bat, Gall's voice is enjoyable, with a hoarse and scratchy quality that I'm familiar with from certain emo acts. However, I don't want to place these guys into the emo category. Well there may be some influence, they really exist in a more general alternative rock world.
The first half of the album, unfortunately, is not as strong as the first track, which really is catchy. The next couple songs exist in a strange place in which they weren't quite able to truly grab my attention and left me, instead, vaguely entertained but not truly impressed. I definitely like Gall's voice, and the backing instrumentals are certainly serviceable, but aside from the first track, the first half of the album is relatively common and forgettable.
It starts to pick up during the second half, though. Starting with "Into the Sun," it seems like the band begins to play more to their strengths. Considering the scratchy, emotive quality of Gall's voice, the album works better with songs that bring out those strengths. "Into the Sun" does this by incorporating slower elements while building the song into something more complicated and faster. This technique, however, doesn't fully pay off until the next track, "These Days." The song starts out slow, dwelling on themes of pain and addiction. Then, at about the three minute mark, the song kicks up the sound level and Gall seems to lose himself in the lyrics, his voice strained and raw, pushing forward through an affected, satisfying conclusion.
The band then switches up the sound of the CD with a transition into a song with much more upbeat instrumentation and an altered singing style. It's an interesting change that, ultimately, didn't work well for me, though the short song did start to grow on me by the time it wound to a close. The next track, though, moves the band right back into the musical frame they were in previously, with strong results. "Shut Up" starts off slow, depressing, pained and builds into anger, frustration, a certain seething, underlying emotion. This is perhaps the album's strongest track, making perfect use of Gall's voice, backing it up with solid, complimentary and varied instrumentation and showcasing some compelling lyrics.
The last two tracks are a mixed bag. The second to last is a decent song, again with a slow opening that builds. The song is decent, but nothing outstanding. It does become more compelling with about a minute and a half left, when it transitions into a finale that involves a nice backing of acoustic guitar and Gall's torn voice. After that, though, comes the final track, which is largely a waste. It's a twelve minute track that consists of about eight minutes of distorted sounds overlaid with quiet, random bits of dialogue, as well as a couple minutes of silence and then the big finish of about a minute of quiet singing. It's nonsense filler, basically. This kind of thing may work for some people, but it pretty much just pisses me off whenever I hear it—and I hear it way too often, on all kinds of albums, and often from artists I otherwise greatly respect. Personally, I find it a poor way to end the album and I think it weakens it.
As a recap then, I think Moonstruck is a decent, if at times less-than-compelling album. The first half is not particularly strong, aside from the very enjoyable first song. The second half of the album finds the band really starting to settle into their sound and comes off much better, with the exception of the mostly worthless final track. While I wouldn't tell you to rush out and buy the CD, I would say they're worth at least checking out on MySpace and seeing if you like their sound.
Burden of Proof's new album, Moonstruck, will be available in February. The band is currently touring Northern California with Slow Car Crash and will be playing Luna's Cafe in Sacramento on Friday, January 26th with Reggie Ginn. For information on other tour dates or to listen to select songs, visit their MySpace site.