Putting the rock in raucous may be a task that has been dropped by modern artists, at least in the more stomping, slamming sense. It is fitting, perhaps, that an answer for this question rises out of Chicago in the form of the Book-Burners. The band purvey a raw taste of pure rock, sold 100 proof by the gross in each song on their newest LP, People’s Songs.
Grit and dirt emit from each song. “Quick,” the album’s opener, begins with absolutely nasty guitar and sandpaper vocals that somehow let you know that the lead singer has a beard. With a neo-AC/DC feel, the band rejuvenate old-school rock here, utilizing simplicity to get the work done. “Sidesteppers” rocks and rolls until its death (and that of the record’s) in quite the same vein, a chewy and nostalgic rock piece. It never slows down and in fact speeds up until the “big rock ending” that one might expect from a band such as this, though it is intensely cliché. “Watch What They Say About You” blasts through similarly, giving a more Foo Fighters– or Soundgarden-esque feel with its dirtier-than-thou instrumentation and its imperative vocal hook.
“Come Home” is vastly different, taking a couple of minutes in a folkier setting to build up to a rocking conclusion. The vocals don’t hold up as well on this, trading pitch for calmness. Its cryptic vocals add a dense layer that’s welcomed, but when the female vocals kick in about two minutes through, it’s hard not to wince. The ballad “Complications” is as Black Keys as the band gets, adding a twinge of blues to their sound. It’s refreshing to hear the band step out into this field, though once again the vocals must make a dreaded exchange. (On the plus side, the female vocals here are nicely fitting, and the song ends on a good note.)
For anyone who’s seen School of Rock, picture this Dewey’s band, and you’ll have a pretty accurate idea of what the Book-Burners sound like. Safe to say they’re not for everyone, but the picture they paint both musically and lyrically is as raw as all hell. For the classic rock vet, pick up a copy. For those of smoother tastes, take a pass.