Sometimes you know people for years, don’t really speak to them for a while, and in the intermittent period, you somehow forget quite how talented they are. Case in point being the mind behind Burrowing, one Liam Stewart. Obviously, I was curious when he asked me to review his latest effort, which he described as “a cross between Sunny Day Real Estate and Rush.”
The chances are that some of you know Liam, or have encountered him in one of his previous guises. He drummed for the Leif Ericsson back in the day, when they had that split EP with Milloy, and did that tour with Joe Ninety (this was donkeys years ago). He drummed with Manchester sludgy doom outfit, Raucous, who played with such luminaries as Gwar (as far as I know they didn’t get slimed) and Orange Goblin in the mid-2000s, before moving on to take up guitar and form Sabbath influenced classic rock outfit The Freezing Fog along with members of noise merchants, Beecher. And that’s just the stuff I know about enough to speak about with any degree of confidence. Suffice to say, he’s been responsible for a good old slice of many a musical pie in his time.
I understand that Burrowing has been something of an epic project for Liam. He wrote all the music himself, and played and recorded 95% or more of it himself too. There are contributions from other Manchester based musicians, chiefly in the form of vocal duties, which have been provided by Ian Breen (Day for Airstrikes, Grotbags, Claw the Thin Ice and others…) who also writes the occasional piece for this very website. Normally, I’d probably pass something like this on to Ian, as it’s more his area of expertise than my own, but he’s singing on it… I didn’t know the dude could sing, so er, decent set of pipes, there Ian!
It’s clear that a goodly amount of time and effort has been put into this. It’s well, technical, I suppose. I’m not a musician, obviously, but this clearly isn’t run-of-the-mill straight forward rock music. I think the kind of stuff I usually listen to can be said to have the effect of a more immediate kind of gratification (i.e. >2 minute slay tracks with no real intros or outros – bish bash bosh and we’re done). Burrowing, well, you kind of need to sit and absorb this stuff.
Listening through this, I can see nods to a couple of the earlier projects (The Freezing Fog in particular for some of the ‘vintage’ sounding guitar parts, and Raucous for where the drumming definitely gets a bit techy). But reaching through to the core of this opus, what you are really getting is more like Clarity era Jimmy Eat World played in a more direct version of the style of Jupiter era Cave In, with more than a touch of grunt ala Crash of Rhinos and some of those well fruity bits that that band Elliott used to do. This guy’s one smart motherfucker when it comes to instruments – he’s an incredibly well coordinated guy in general. I’m not even going to mention he was a table tennis prodigy as a young kid (UK no.2 across all age brackets in the discipline) and he was fairly nifty on a board in the old skate mental days.
But, digression and silly nostalgia asides, if you can imagine a lightly metallised version of Minus The Bear, Algernon Cadwallader, or Andy Glenn and Rich or something of that ilk then you can’t really go far wrong with this, to be honest. There’s even hints of what Radiohead might sound like if they did away with their over tendency to be ridiculously self-indulgent and unstructured (eeeeee-gads that band have irritated the shit out of me for quite some time now).
I can sit here all day and wax lyrical about how good this record is, but I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to recommend that you have listen on the player below. And once you’ve realised that (as is always the case, by the way) this is genius of the highest order, you should head directly to the Burrowing bandcamp, where you can get this for ‘pay what you want’. But, y’know, don’t be a prick about it and pay 10p or something. Pay a proper amount of money.
The real question is whether this can be made to happen live? Hmm. Now that would indeed be something to see.
Tony of Nurgle verdict: 9/10. Best track for me is Hypnosis, for the mental cowbell breaks.