The Burning of Rome - With Us (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
WELCOME to one of the weirdest, wackiest yet strangely enjoyable albums you’re likely to hear in 2013.
The Burning of Rome’s With Us has already been described as “a post-apocalyptic mash-up of meticulous orchestration, electronic manipulation and eccentric experimentation” (by 944 magazine) and “Gypsy punk” by Paste Magazine.
And it’s fair to say the album ticks those boxes as well as a fair few more. The brainchild of San Diego native Adam Traub, The Burning of Rome exist with the following mission statement: “The ultimate goal of The Burning of Rome is to reach as many people as possible with our sound and offer musical asylum to those needing it.
“Bands used to carry the banner for their followers in a way that seems fleeting. There aren’t any Joe Strummers of this generation acting as a voice for those that can’t be heard. I want The Burning of Rome to carry a banner for its followers and give them refuge from monotony. I want to rally the masses and call out the corrupt. I want a revolution to spark from this band!”
Whether that can be achieved is debatable. But this is a band that looks destined to attract a loyal, devoted band of cult followers.
Their music veers towards the theatrical and the head-spinningly eccentric. They’re flamboyant, imaginative, indulgent and experimental. They occasionally sound like The Flaming Lips on acid with a little of The Polyphonic Spree thrown in for good measure.
Recent single Norman Bates offered an insight into what to expect, emerging as a gypsy punk pop romp that had catchy melodies, foot-tapping beats and giddy piano arrangements, and which also offered a look at the unhinged life of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous characters.
But throughout there are songs to make you sit up and take notice, from the space-rock trippiness of opening salvo Ballad of An Onion Sprout (which endears by virtue of its kooky charm and tubular bells), to the foot-stomping glam rock of Cowboys & Cut Cigars via the eccentric country-folk of Little Piranhas, which also displays psychedelic tendencies and a dark bite.
Wake Up Edamame grips by virtue of its cracking guitar work (which has a really cool retro vibe), while the space opera that is Opus For Sleepwalking offers the kind of epic pop romp that Queen, Meat Loaf and The Rocky Horror Show fans might like to embrace, with some thrilling electronic flourishes.
Just occasionally, though, the playfulness gets a little ahead of itself and sends the album into horrendously self-indulgent and much less accessible territory.
Island, with its wonky pop vibe, is more annoying than inspiring, while Why Can’t I Stop Killing My Friends? marries dark lyricism with black humour and more tripped out wonky pop and struggles to engage. Audrey II with its vocal samples about talking plants also feels kind of whacked out and wilfully eccentric – but not necessarily in a good way.
Indeed, the second half of the album contains more misses than hits, with an 11th unnamed track particularly annoying in the way that it just feels like one long piece of static or intercepted space electronica.
Overall, The Burning of Rome may well be the type of band you have a love-hate relationship with.
Download picks: Ballad of An Onion Sprout, Little Piranhas, Norman Bates, Wake Up Edamame