Postmodernism is hardly unknown to independent rock. Nearly every crap conceptual Polyvinyl band can quote Baudrillard or Foucault. Rare, however, is a concrete example of a deliberate postmodern musical aesthetic. Burning Airlines shows conceptual savvy on a more structural level, composing post-hardcore with a referential edge.
Singer/guitarist/songwriter J. Robbins (refugee from seminal D.C. group Jawbox) has one of the finest natural voices in indie rock, which he employs in a myriad of ways: cracking anger, Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque melodiousness and Tony Bennett-like jazzy crooning. The music itself borrows liberally from punk, mod, jazz, prog, dub and blues, all filtered through an obligatory dose of Fugazi. Lyrically, too, many of the songs read like passages from City of Quartz.
Though songs like “Earthbound,” with its creaky acoustic guitar, or “A Song with No Words” come off as stilted and cold, much of this album has a certain kick, swing and dynamism that buoys it through thick and thin. But take this recommendation with a grain of salt: If you’re not in with postmodernism, you’re doomed to be forgotten.