’m not sure if the era where every single band from Halifax gets compared to Sloan is still a going concern, but you can’t avoid the s-word when talking about the Burdocks. Although not, blessedly, for musical reasons; the simple fact is that when Christian Simmons and Seth Smith sing, they sound like a less twee Jay Ferguson. But rather than Ferguson’s dewy-fresh melodies (seriously, you can’t hate “Junior Panthers”) you get, err, “scrap-rock.”
No band that invents their own genre name really pulls it off, but this one at least gets within shouting distance: the Burdocks pick over the great indie trash heap and pluck out all the twisty bits, soldering together the awkward bits of a million half-forgotten bands. The enervated refrain of “At the end of the knife united” in “Icicle Knife” is the closest it gets to any sort of anthem, but the quick blur of the first four tracks on this mini-album makes it work for a while. The songs keep going in directions you don’t quite expect even after a few listens although only “Icicle Knife” and “Pop Cult” really stand out from the initial batch.
But then they usher in “We Seat Ourselves”, in which one idea rather then the multitude they’ve been flitting amidst is taken out back and beaten to death over the course of almost seven minutes. It’s not the length, or even the pace that kills, since Airplane Tracks eventually ends with the similarly lengthy “Battle Of The Band”, which is actually a highlight. And sandwiched between the two is “Room Temperature” with lead vocals from guitarist Nancy Urich, stop-starting in a vaguely Seafood-ish way (this is intended as a complement). “We Seat Ourselves” suffers due to a lack of ideas and a compensatory focus on the riffing, which is certainly competent but not so amazing that it can hold your attention for so long.
No, the Burdocks work best here when they’re all over the place, switching ideas every twenty seconds, making dubious virtues of haze and patchwork and fleeting impressions, stubborn inscrutability and obvious welds. But it’s not all rough-hewn sudden turns, even when the new ideas are flying thick: “Battle Of The Band” in particular pulls off Pavement’s old trick of being emotional while remaining staunchly meaningless, which we don’t see enough of any more.
If the band builds on the best stuff here, the first two and last two songs, the eventual album should actually make the qualities here into definite positives, but the lackluster middle section of Airplane Tracks give rise to fears that if they don’t watch it the Burdocks may wind up too opaque and draggy for their own good.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2005-01-11