The Burning of Rome - With Us
Some bands matter and most don't. It's a simple - and brutal - fact of life. Maybe you will sell some records and persuade people to come to your shows. That's fine. You're part of the entertainment industry. You're disposable. Other bands will capture hearts. You can judge how much a band matters by how often you see their albums in second-hand stores. If someone completely buys into what you do, they'll never let you go.
The Burning of Rome. That's a proper band name for starters. See the smoke on the horizon? It's the music industry in ruins, corpses on the streets. The old gods are dead.
Adam Traub understands. He was playing in punk bands as a teenager before illness stymied his dreams. Taking up an old piano, he turned to The Beatles for comfort, before getting switched on to classical and jazz. Now he fronts TBOR and he comes armed with an agenda:
"Bands used to carry the banner for their followers ... There aren't any Joe Strummers of this generation acting as a voice for those that can't be heard. I want The Burning of Rome to carry the banner for its followers and give them refuge from monotony. I want to rally the masses and call out the corrupt."
It's a lofty, perhaps deluded ambition but there's a naivety and absurdity to With Us (or against us, the obvious sub-text) that might just convince enough people to get on the bus. There's no easy way to describe its many and varied delights; imagine Mika jamming with System of a Down and it will at least give you a sense of its unashamed theatricality. The artwork features some kind of all-seeing-eye and there's even a 'no nukes' logo in the booklet. Listeners are advised to seek out the work of cosmologist Carl Sagan. That smell? Patchouli.
Come back already. With Us is huge fun. If you like the idea of Muse but balk at the reality, TBOR are the ethical, hemp-fuelled alternative. The incredible pomp rock of 'Opus For Sleepwalking'; the military stomp of 'Little Piranhas' ("They've taken hope / They've taken the best years of your life") - they serve as virtual manifestos, sonic and lyrical wake up calls. 'Norman Bates' leaps from music hall to half-time singalong to screamo with nary a glance at the rule book. On paper it shouldn't work but it does. It will make you laugh at its audacity.
If Traub wants the suburban kids to come on board, to join his circus of freaks he may have to get heavier - appeal to the gut as much as the head. When With Us rocks it does so thrillingly, but not often enough. It's a great headphones album (which given its cerebral intent makes sense) but to raise an army they will need their people to gather under storm clouds and tear shit up. Forward-thinking festival bookers should be clearing a space in their diary for 2014.
In many respects, The Burning of Rome may have made the silliest album you'll hear in 2013. But if you long for an act brazen enough to be true to themselves, one that will bravely eschew the empty cool and insipidness of much that passes for today's supposedly 'alternative' music, you might just have found your new favourite band. Buy now and keep close - forever.