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Published: 2005/04/04
by Joe Boncek

Burning in the Sun – Blue Merle

Island Records 16182-2

Sitting in my room, staring at my collage of Roxy Music LP covers, I once again ponder the downward spiral of music. There's nothing I can do about it. I can rant, write, make a few progressive ambient compositions that mirror Eno in a trite way, but nothing beats that unquenchable thirst the American listener has for poppy, upbeat Americana. Blue Merle's debut album Burning in the Sun falls right into that successful equation of popular American music. While I’d usually shake my head in dismay at another Dave Mathews Band clone, I find myself slowly nodding, submitting acceptance. Why is it different this time around?

Wait. The cynicism is still there, so before I shed my diamond fae of negativity let me share a few problems I have with the album. Lead singer Lucas Reynolds owns that monotonous Dave Mathews/John Mayer/Ben Harper tone, the emotionally crippled crooning of a drunken poet lost in his own ego, whose breath is rotted with Starbucks and whiskey. Overall the album seems a little too sappy, the kind of soundtrack that'd make a hit with the music directors of "Dawson's Creek," if the show was still around that is.

Okay. I'm done. Burning in the Sun is damn catchy and exceptionally produced. The unique use of strings is quite impressive and mature sounding for a debut album. Mandolin player Beau Stapleton remains tasteful, adding romantic chords and phrases, rather than an incessant number of notes that seem to go nowhere. The lyrics, while simplistic, match perfectly in imagery. "Every Ship Must Sail Away," holds true to the melancholy theme of the album, with elegant piano paired with lyrics of death symbolism. The thematic elements of the album fade appropriately into each song, giving the listener no unwanted surprises and leaving a sweet taste in their mouth. Starbucks anyone? Just kidding.

I smell success for Blue Merle. My advice for them: less vocals, more strings, maybe add a mellotron. Join the ranks of Americana for the time being though. Help the college guy get laid, hit up those festivals with fury (please bring the strings), tell Spin about your addictions and heartbreaks, ride the train, join the party, welcome.

Maybe I won't tell my friends about this album — I'd rather have it be my dirty little secret who only comes out on those rare occasions when I'm trying to win over the All-American girl with my impeccable taste in music as if to say, "hey, girl, I can rock out just like every other college kid in America."
At the end of the night, I'll probably end up popping in Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Because us few carpet crawlers have to keep it real in the 21st.

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