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The Burning Hell The Burning Hell
Album: Revival Beach
Label: BB*Island
Tracks: 13

The Burning Hell is in effect the alter-ego of Canadian singer-songwriter Mathias Kom, who since 2007 has surrounded himself with a lineup of supporting musicians that's changed and morphed as much as the musical idiom has veered between introspective folk and hyperactive rock'n'roll, with most points in between. Part of the charm is the sheer unpredictability of it all, gleeful yet natural, but even when you've gotten to know what's coming Mathias's music still has the capacity to delight and even wrongfoot the listener.

On Mathias' earlier Burning Hell albums, People (2013) and Public Library (2016), he was joined by long-time collaborator and occasional touring partner clarinettist Ariel Sharratt and three other musicians on bass, drums and guitar, but for his latest creation Revival Beach Ariel and guitarist/bouzouki player Darren Browne also take on bass and drums duties. The overall sound is quirky indie-rock with offbeat touches, brilliantly matching the tone and substance of Mathias' lyrics.

There's more than a hint of Jonathan Richman here and a soup├žon of Robyn Hitchcock there, and a delicious, dry and sharp sense of humour is at work in Mathias' literate little stories, imaginative flights of not-entirely-fancy that by and large inhabit a illogically funny post-apocalyptic world where curiously familiar, homely detail is still of much consequence and import while revealing the vagaries of human lunacy. Odd characters, skewed vignettes, surreal close observation (maybe early Zappa-ish but without his obstructive obscenity or deliberate outrage), all are couched in a darkly upbeat attitude, whereby every protagonist is approaching his/her own apocalypse with a kooky kind of resignation. Not at all gloom-and-doom, despite song titles like The River (Never Freezes Anymore) and Survival at Revival Beach. There's some sharp commentary in there on the bookending songs, the twisted parable Friend Army and upbeat finale Supermoon; the latter's a veritable last-dance beach-party for the end of the world (keep up!).

Musically too, it's amazing how easily the hooks of Mathias' songs gnaw their way into your brain, and there's a wholly disarming, appealingly accessible carnivalesque mix'n'match pulp sensibility about much of the writing that complements the ragbag stylistic melange. Hey, the apocalypse can be fun! So kom join Mathias in his vision (love the weird-tales cover-art too!).

David Kindman