Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 29 January 2015

Burning Pilot - Cold Caller (Transgressive)

With their short sharp shock sound, musical menace and barking mad lyrics, Burning Pilot are a compelling bunch.

Add to that a half-singing, half-speaking lead singer in the mould of the great Mark E Smith, and you have what is surely the closest thing alternative rock has to the genre's greatest survivors, The Fall.

Debut album Cold Caller is fast-paced and exhilarating, packed with top-heavy bass guitars and scratchy pulses of sound, and underpinned by a frenzied lyrical savagery.

The collection is a meeting of the marginal and the mainstream, ambling hooks and dreamy synths competing with thrashing bass-lines and throbbing soundscapes.

Among the 10-track assortment are tracks that can only be described as primitive indie-disco, the sort of stuff The Fall was doing in the mid-1980s, or punk funk.

Michael James' vocal drone certainly calls to mind Smith, but at times the sound is like a nasally combo of Squeeze's Chris Difford, Terry Hall from The Specials and Blur's Damon Albarn.

All in all, the album is a fascinating listen. There's never a dull moment from the pacey opener Accelerate, right through to the bright and breezy International Poster Campaign.

Even when the record veers into gloomy art-rock of White Clipping or the brooding inflections of Magazine and Kraftwerk, there's never a reason to despair. Daring to be different is risky in the fickle world of pop. You wonder whether a group like Burning Pilot has any real shelf-life in a world where musical pigeon-holes are all important.

But if they don't quite make that 15 minutes of fame, there's surely got to be a place for them in the wonderful and frightening world of the Fall.

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