The follow up to last year’s EP Infernal Memo, Mat Sweet’s is first full length away from Kranky melds John Milton’s Paradise Lost with further developments in his writing and performing style. Moving further into musically (almost) upbeat territory while keeping the lyrics suitably bleak, Burnt Up On Re-Entry is another terrific addition to Sweet’s repertoire.
It might sound odd but the opening track, "Fiery the Angels Fell," is as indebted to mainstream "alternative" acts as it is to Sweet’s older nocturnal explorations. Drum machines, synths and chunky guitars create a constantly shifting background for the apocalyptic words which are sang with more clarity than on previous releases. This approach is a surprise but it works. The style is the template for the rest of Burnt Up On Re-Entry and overall this sounds like the great dark pop album of the '90s that was never made.
Yet just when I feel I know where the album is going, "Drexelius Sick Man Quarles Embemes Closed Heaven" shifts course altogether. Heavily processed vocals and Warp Records circa 1995 beats and soundscapes take me entirely off guard. It sounds brilliant both on its own and within the greater context of the album as it is a microcosm of some of the techniques used on other songs, forming a coherent but unexpected interlude during Burnt Up On Re-Entry.
While the overall style might be changing with every Boduf Songs album, what remains constant is the quality of Sweet’s lyrics and the heavy mood that covers the music like a shroud, no matter how accessible or tongue-in-cheek it might be. On the aforementioned "Fiery the Angels Fell," for example, Sweet mixes the lyrics to "It's Raining Men" with the ghastly imagery of people leaping from tall buildings to a wet, pulpy end. On the sublimely titled "Whither Thou Goest, Cretin," Sweet creates a basic, repetitive motif of a beat and bass line that should not sound so creepy for something that is so simple but it inexplicably sparks a panic. So many industrial, noise, or metal bands try to reach the same levels of bleakness and fail to come close to Sweet’s intonation of the mantra "Everyone Will Let You Down in the End" over a beautiful pair of guitar melodies. The song is already devastating before Sweet unleashes a huge sounding Sabbath-like riff to tip the whole thing over the edge.
Compared to albums like This Alone Above Else in Spite of Everything and How Shadows Chase the Balance, Burnt Up On Re-Entry does not quite reach the same despairing depths but it demonstrates that Sweet is unwilling to tread the same boards over and over again. Moreover, I feel that as well as being a good follow up to those frankly wonderful albums, this one has the capacity to find a larger audience for Boduf Songs. Whether that is a good or bad thing depends on a lot of factors. On one hand, I would love to see them live again but on the other, the fact that there is an almost cultish secrecy to Sweet’s music means that any dilution could destroy it.
- A Brilliant Shaft of Light from out of the Night Sky
- Whither Thou Goest, Cretin
- Everyone Will Let You Down in the End