Burn The Negative - How To Weigh The Human Soul
Owain Paciuszko 16/09/2010
Sophomore album from Carlisle-based quartet is slickly produced electro-rock, with lead track Always The Way reminiscent of Neon Neon, lead vocalist Mark Baker doing a particularly Gruff Rhys-like performance with some falsetto choruses. It's a shiny track, polished and pristene, with Gareth Milburn's bass especially fun in amongst the posturing guitar licks and mirrorball synths.
It's a far better tune than single Smash and Grab which feels like a Soulwax Euro-pop remix of Iggy Pop's I Wanna Be Your Dog, but lacking the raw energy that no ammount of processing could strip from that song. Instead, Smash and Grab is swamped by its artifice to produce something that you could probably dance to with an air of detatchment. Never Again began with a jaunty, peculiar beat before falling into the familiar dance patterns and syncopated time signature that looms large over this record, with every track eager to get the audience bobbing about, a la White Lies.
Other influences seem to be Black Tie/White Noise-era Bowie on the aptly vacuous You Are Hollywood, all bleepy keys, sci-fi theramin and redundant lyrics such as; 'Camera flash, red carpet dash.' Again though, the problem lies a lot in the tracks tempo, which feels like its bled through from every preceding song with nothing in the sound to really distinguish one track from the next making a thirteen song strong record something of a marathon. The gentle acoustic guitar that opens Insert Replace may raise hopes, but about twenty seconds in its joined by a processed beat and all goes out the window; now, I'm not saying that Burn The Negative need to become a folk band every few tracks, but up to this point there's a distinct lack of variety on this record with every track seemingly hoping to become a hit single, but each cut to the same 'chart' mold.
At last, the change does come, the two and a half minute She Sits In The Corner is a dour, synth ballad with a somewhat baroque feel that is a decent aside, but any good faith is dashed by the repugnant 'This is how I do it' chant of Thirteen Pieces, where a vocal effect makes it sound like Baker has a really bad cold. Any bluster they possessed on their earlier tracks feels diluted to the point of non-existence on penultimate 'floor-filler' Walk Away, leaving Wansapanamera Girl to end things on a reasonably high note with its wonky synth lines and slinky drumming, it's a bizarre and intriuguing instrumental close to the record and suggests that perhaps somewhere in their midst Burn The Negative have the capability to bring a unique direction to their sound, but they don't quite know how to marry that to the pop aspects of their modus operandi.