Exactly what images and imagined or remembered sounds do the words ‘Dream Pop’ conjure up? Ear blistering fuzztone guitar riffs, echoing doo-wop inspired three part harmony choruses, crashing and swaying drum rhythms, flashing stage lights, big shiny guitars and stage sets, and walking out of a gig half deaf and/or blinded. That’s what pop music was all about in the mist shrouded and distant world Burnt Ones choose to celebrate, the pre-punk Glam Rock of the early 70s, specifically its Brit manifestations, names which are today perhaps known only to musicologists and cultural historians – Slade, The Sweet, Chicory Tip, Wizzard, the Bay City Rollers and top of Burnt One’s list, T-Rex.
Let’s put something quite firmly into its context. Burnt Ones make no attempt to disguise their admiration for the glitzy chart sounds of the first half of the British 1970s, and their reconstruction of the stomping beats and kaleidoscopic imagery of a world where the distortion pedal was the ultimate expression of guitar technology is combined with a style that hasn’t ever quite lost its edge. After all, you’d need to be approaching 50 to remember Burnt One’s influences first time round, and it’s doubtful that any of the trio’s members are over half that age, so the San Franciscan trio can just about reclaim the glam world for themselves entirely.
And starting with album opener “Bury Me In Smoke” it’s apparent that here is a noise that will capture your attentions regardless of whether you actually like how it sounds. It’s a very big crunching guitar noise intermingled with a vast array of rock n roll clichés, hammering out of the speakers with all the blank eyed arrogance of the JAMC in their prime, let alone Marc Bolan and Bowie. Not since Black Lips have I heard a band attack its material with such barely controlled venom as Burnt Ones bring to their (approaching 50 minutes long) debut album, and it would be possible to summarise Black Teeth and Golden Tongues as Black Lips’ 200 Million Thousand with a better haircut, but that wouldn’t quite go far enough. Where the Atlanta quartet are introspective and subversive, Burnt Ones are a full-blown pop group, indebted to the doo-wop obscurities of the early 60s and the platform soled starchildren of the early 70s.
Every track on Black Teeth and Golden Tongues is a monstrous evocation of a musical past none of the band are actually able to remember : ‘Soft City’ is a relentless scream of neurosis : ‘Burnt To Lose’ is a warped space ballad: “Kaliedoscope Eyes” is the Ramones falling down a lift shaft : and probable album highlight “Gonna Listen To T REX All Night Long” is an evocative hymn dedicated to the Glampop worlds most notable 70s casualty, and takes the ‘Metal Guru’ riff to heights Bolan himself definitely dreamt of, if never actually achieved in his lifetime.
You might not actually like this album. But a bit like T Rex themselves, this is music you will almost certainly remember, perhaps in spite of yourself.