Joey Henderson must smoke a lot of pot!
More than half the You EP, his latest record with his Jersey Shore-based band The Burns, is about getting high and being stoned. A great testament to the enduring legacy of ’70s rock, particularly T. Rex, the six-song digital collection (or nine-song full-length CD) and Telegraph Hill Records label debut also tells the tale of a drifting, restless heart that needs to find a physical and emotional home.
More rockin’ than last year’s debut album, Splenderson, the You EP successfully captures the fun of The Burns live, especially on “Irish Exit,” a horn-driven track that has less to do with the historic Sounds of Asbury Park of their home base than such glammy British inversions of rhythm & blues as T. Rex, Mott the Hoople and David Bowie. The tune is set at a party during which a poor bloke gets so stoned and subsequently paranoid he has to make an “Irish exit.” Amid the high jinks, great gang backing vocals by lead guitarist Matt “Fern” Fernicola, bassist Chris Dubrow and drummer Billy McCabe, as well as a sassy sax by scene veteran Michael Squillace, add to the strength of the track.
“Irish Exit” is preceded by “Unlike You,” another fun tune about a fella who’d rather be wasted than man up. The tune features a sweet solo by Fernicola as well some tasty feedback that fades into a soft but strong ending.
“Suboxygen” may be the strongest example of the band’s homage to the ’70s with intentional or unintentional references to Cheap Trick, Sweet and Slade, while the opening “Blind” recalls the sweet but edgy crunch of T. Rex. “Talk About It,” a Brit-flavored punkadelic romp that sounds like The Clash pecked apart by Hawkwind, is about the tension of a couple whose fella is trying to set his ex up with someone else.
The tune segues nicely into the standout track “Wolves,” a breakup song about a player who’d rather be on the prowl with his pals than secure in a relationship. I love the gang call-and-response and great dual guitar solos between Fernicola and Henderson into one by Fern that is a gift from the rock gods.
The Burns have done a good job producing this album themselves, cohesively blending songs that predate the two-year-old band with new ones. However, I must say I think The Burns are at their best when they pursue American roots music. You’ll get a great taste of that with the physical CD of the You EP, which at nine songs (clocking in at 35 minutes) actually is a full-length, and a highly recommended one at that because the three bonus tracks are even better than the six that will be released digitally.
• “Hard on You,” a single released in March that also relates to getting high and features a strong gang counter harmony and clever, punchy wordplay, including the standout lines: “Well, I’m broke. I smoke. I drink to cope with the pain. And I hope dad jokes would get you roped, and I’ve never been to The Saint. But I’m glad you told the truth, and I hope you’re onto someone new.”
• “I’ll Be Back,” a funky chicken-picking country-blues ramble of the aforementioned restless heart.
• An extended version of “Wolves” that is the best thing I’ve ever heard The Burns do, with a righteous jam that extends the guitar solos into a Beatlesque false fadeout that soars back to a blistering finish courtesy of Fern’s mighty axe.
CDs will be for sale on Aug. 3 when The Burns celebrate the release of the EP at Asbury Lanes with Levy & the Oaks, who will celebrate their new Telegraph Hill record, Sound of the City. Sharing that bill will be labelmates Avery Mandeville & the Man Devils, as well as Rachel Ana Dobken and Black Suburbia Music Group.
The Burns also will play the second annual Makin Waves Roots Fest on Aug. 11 at Asbury Park Brewery, also with Levy & the Oaks, as well as Cranston Dean Band, The Paper Jets and Tara Dente. I can’t wait to hear the extended version of “Wolves” live.
Other upcoming Burns dates include the after show of Cake and Ben Folds Five on Aug. 15 at the Stone Pony; Aug. 16 at BoonTunes in Boonton; Aug. 17 at The Music Ward in Philadelphia; Aug. 31 at the Strand Smokehouse in Queens, N.Y.; Sept. 1 at CBGB, Newark Airport, and Sept. 8 at Asbury Lanes for Rachel Ana Dobken’s record release show.
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. And like Makin Waves at facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.