Replacing their previous attachment to crisply produced studio albums is a renewed interest in capturing the power of their live performances. And the San Diego-based band mostly pulls it off with the help of Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers) pushing them to capture new ground as producer.
Leary isn't the only welcome addition to The Burning Of Rome. Along with his talents as a producer, he recruited several guest drummers to lend their sticks to the project, including Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle/NIN), Dale Crover (Melvins/Nirvana) and Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam/Of Montreal). Their percussion licks will give newcomer Danny King plenty to do behind the drum kit.
The balance of the band is much more familiar. Joe Aguilar (guitar), Keveen Baudouin (bass), Aimee Jacobs (vocals, keyboards), and Adam Traub (singer, keys, guitar) have all honed their talents on this album. Traub, specifically, has come a long way since he started the band as a recording project in a laundry room in Oceanside, California. (The four-track tape recorder he started with is now put to rest.)
Year Of The Ox brings more rock and riffs to bare.
There is still come considerable rock theatrics that are interesting at their best and distracting at their worst. But overall, the band has tamed themselves down to deliver more guitar riffs alongside their big assortment of accompanying instrumentals. The more focused arrangements are a win for them.
Naturally, they haven't abandoned their theatrics in entirely. Space Age Stockholm Syndrome, for example, retains the cult oddity that has defined some of the previous (and occasionally not understandable) successes. But then there are tracks like Better Than He, where the theatrics only creep into only a few seconds, which helps pin the band down as occasionally poppy space rockers.
The key to enjoying the overall offering is often tied to how it is navigated, even if none of the tracks truly stand out on their own as especially memorable. To give it all a fair shake, start with Echo Park, a sun-soaked indie rocker that conjures more images of Los Angeles over San Diego. Follow it up with Melina, which has some surf-rock infused moments that are only overshadowed by a chorus that retains Traub's insistence to never take anything too seriously.
With those two tracks setting a foundation for what's possible, jump up to Sister Francis for a moody composition that feels resurrected from the new age branch of the eighties. It's just enough to set the band apart without slipping into the weirdness experienced in Terrible Tales From Tocqueville, a campy, cross-your-fingers-for-cult-cred that blends a spaghetti Western and stage musical with eighties new age highlights. Skip it until you're ready to love it or hate it.
Instead, cut to the bonus track on the bottom of the album. Not only does it feature Dale Crover, but the composition also comes across as a punk-spiked rocker that will adequately convince any listener that The Burning Of Rome, if nothing else, is a master at producing quirky goodness.
Year Of The Ox Burns Up 3.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
While it won't be album of the year by any stretch, there is something oddly riveting about The Burning Of Rome and the vision that Traub and his bandmates want to convey. The album isn't necessarily going to capture your attention and give you something to relate it to, but it will transport your head someplace else for while. If they rein it in even further, expect great things in their future.
Year Of The Ox by The Burning Of Rome is available on Amazon. You can also download the album from iTunes or order Year Of The Ox by The Burning Of Rome from Barnes & Noble. For a current touring schedule, visit them on Facebook.