Review- “People”- The Burning Hell

peoplereviewed by Michael Thomas

If you’ve never heard the music of Mathias Kom, it’s really about time you do so. Without a doubt he is one of the wittiest songwriters in the country, and this latest release from The Burning Hell further solidifies this reputation. The album title is reflected in the names of the songs, with every title being a type of person (like “Barbarians,” “Sentimentalists” and others).

Musically, The Burning Hell dabbles in the rock genre to varying degrees, but with a wide range of backing musicians (among them Nick Ferrio) that can make the music of People sound like anything from something out of the Police catalogue to the soundtrack of a spy movie.

To unpack all the allusions Kom makes in his songs would take an eternity, and it’s what makes listening to the music all that much more fun. “Amateur Rappers,” one of the catchiest songs on the albums, manages to start off talking about how strange cults are, later namedropping rappers like Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Method Man, the “interrupting cow” knock-knock joke, and a prolonged reference to A Boy and His Dog. And that’s just one song.

Not every song on the album is as jam-packed with pop-culture references, though, and those songs stand well on their own. “Grown-Ups” is a song full of nostalgia, including a line about nostalgia: “We used to listen to nostalgic songs with nostalgic chord progressions/Like this one.” Then there’s the song “Sentimentalists,” with its appropriately dreamy melody, recalling fondly a restaurant called the Paddle Wheel.

“Holidaymakers” is an upbeat jam with a reference to the train scene from Stand By Me, and “Travel Writers” is almost like a short story in the form of a song.

Kom also tells two epic tales in two seven-minute songs, the first being “Barbarians” which tells the story of a curse and a Viking family. Pay attention to all the details in this one because you’ll feel silly later on in the song when Kom references something he mentioned earlier. And then there’s the album closer “Industrialists” with its refrain “It takes all kinds of people to make a world” and some very pleasant xylophone-sounding music as Kom tells the tale of a boy who started a company at 10 and becomes a pillar of industry.

Finally, there’s “Wallflowers,” another standout track that is quite the love song, which manages to make a hook out of “And like a crow don’t you know, I’m helpless around shiny things.” It even manages to make a reference to Lionel Richie’s “Hello” and the accompanying music video.

It should be fairly obvious that there’s a lot going on over the course of nine songs, and People should be the bible songwriters study from if they want to know how to write songs that people will remember.

Top Tracks: “Amateur Rappers”; “Wallflowers”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*

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