The Burning Hell

Happy Birthday

BY Vish KhannaPublished Jan 28, 2008

With its dark humour and quirky parlour pop, Happy Birthday is a damned fine record, showcasing the sharp charm of the Burning Hell’s main man, Mathias Kom. Some fantastic singers and songwriters haunt Kom’s compositions, not the least of whom are Stephen Merritt, Bill Callahan and David Berman. It’s not just the dry, almost listless baritone that sounds familiar, as the Burning Hell are similarly open to complement wry, vaguely folk pop songs with varied voices and sounds. "Dinosaurs” and the Jenny Mitchell-assisted "Municipal Monarch” are lovely tunes and, along with the sardonic "Everything You Believe is a Lie,” could please any Magnetic Fields fan. "The Second Cigarette” and the sad put-on of "Goodbye Ukulele” are adventurous and Smog sly, while "General Electric vs. The Imperial Moth” and broke down duet "I Guess I’ll be Seeing You” recall the spirit (if not the recklessness) of recent Silver Jews work. With flashes of American iconography (i.e., the CIA, "interstates,” etc.) and old, weird folk leanings, Happy Birthday is foreign but comfortable, as the Burning Hell angle toward a sonic niche of their own.

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