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"Burnt Up On Re-Entry"

Boduf Songs – Burnt Up On Re-Entry
24 January 2013, 07:58 Written by Adam Nelson

Mat Sweet’s last full-length as Boduf Songs, 2010′s This Alone Above All Else In Spite of Everything, was a defining work in his canon. Having spent three albums for Kranky feeling out his sound and developing as a songwriter, This Alone… felt like the culmination of the experiment thus far. It was a dark and difficult masterpiece. In the wake of creating his most accomplished album to date, and his signing for Southern Records, Sweet has taken the opportunity to draw a line under the previous stage of his career, and Burnt Up On Re-Entry marks the beginning of a new phase of development.

The dense acoustic malady that has defined Boduf Songs is exchanged for something more expansive. The lo-fi, DIY production aesthetic enhanced the claustrophobic tone of earlier Boduf albums, which actively encouraged the incursion of external sounds into Sweet’s bedroom recordings, transporting you there. Here, the slicker, more traditional approach widens the landscape, and presents the most outwardly-facing Boduf album yet. In comparison with This Alone…, the songwriting here is relatively straightforward, largely eschewing the knotty layers of acoustic ambience for bigger, brasher electric guitar parts and bass-heavy laptop compositions. His broader, more accessible hooks reach out to the stars which adorn the record’s front cover, where This Alone… was so introverted that its cover displayed nothing but the album’s lyrics.

The overall tone still tends toward the oppressive – a typical song title, for example, is ‘Maggot Ending’, a song which carries the lyric “We will devour you/For to keep you safe” – but there is more hope here than ever before. Sweet’s voice has always rested Radiohead in its spidery guitar line and harmonies, and Nine Inch Nails in its out-of-control outro. Such mainstream acts have previously existed only as silent influences in Sweet’s work. Less concerned with building tension and atmosphere across the album, Burnt Up… is an exercise in relative directness, where songs take precedence over the work as a whole.

The record is a bag of ideas, some good, some not so great, and there is little cohesion or coherency through the near-hour long runtime. The schizophrenic, fantastically-titled ‘Whither Thou Goest, Cretin’, for example, is a dirge that the record as a whole could do without. Sweet often seems too attached to his own ideas, reluctant to let something go when it would serve the song, or the album, to cast it adrift. The same could have been said, however, of his earlier works, which were used in part as a sounding board for ideas that would later be honed. Burnt Up On Re-Entry represents an attempt to build a new identity for Boduf Songs, and an artist like Mat Sweet, one of Britain’s most singular songwriters, deserves time and patience – he has not made a classic here, but he may have made an album which allows him to do so again in the future.

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