Brandon Wiard – Painting a Burning Building (CD)

One of those singer-songwriters that make enough racket that eir listeners are confused into thinking a full band is always there – think of Beck or Sean Lennon, and one might have an idea of what Brandon Wiard sounds like. This is no Secret Machines, though – songs are tight and short, bursting with an energy that keeps the aforementioned band back. Wiard revels in the bombastic blasts of guitar and synthesizers that dot the landscapes of “Miss Michigan” and “Since You’ve Gone Away”. Wiard is definitely influenced by the Pixies – the guitar opening of “I’ll Write These Songs” is a definite nod to “Here Comes Your Man”, after which Wiard makes the song completely eir own. This is where the average sports-bar or frat-performing kid with a guitar should go for inspiration rather than talentless hacks like Rich Hardesty and (dare I say it) John Maher. Some of the tracks are more sedate than the average fare on “Painting”, such as “Permanent Smile”, but the one thing that stays the course is the revolutionary nature of Wiard’s instrumental arrangements – they are almost like black holes, with how dense they are.

Immediately after “Permanent Smile”, Wiard goes back to the wellspring that has treated eir so well – the tempo is equal to that of a punk song, but much more polished and accessible. The one strong suit about Wiard with that facet of eir music is that the mastering on this is perfect – a track like “Moving On” is the perfect example of this. Two vocals intertwine perfectly overtop of an already crowded soundscape and yet Wiard has the foresight to make the track accommodate everything. The only complaint that can be levied is that even with 12 tracks, “Painting a Burning Building” ends quicker than it should. Wiard tries to combat this by one of the more revolutionary tracks in recent memory, using what can only be described as an Native American-inspired hymn and drum session in “Old Heartless Sun”. In fact, “Old Heartless Sun” is the medley track for a musical that was never written – no less than eight different directions are taken by the track, and each are that same high quality that one expects from Wiard only thirty minutes into knowing eir. I’m not a big fan of CMJ and alt-rock radio, but when someone like Wiard comes through and shakes things up, seamlessly tying together musical movements from the sixties on, I can give my full stamp of approval. Wiard has done just that.

Top Track: Old Heartless Sun, Since You’ve Gone Away

Rating: 8.0/10

Brandon Wiard – Painting a Burning Building / 2004 Cerberus / 12 Tracks / / / Reviewed 17 January 2005

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