Public Library is the ninth long player offering from the bard of Newfoundland; Matias Kom and his band The Burning Hell. A collection of eight novellas set to music taking the listener from prison to an ex-priest on the run, Elvis and Michael Jackson, fatalist philosophy via a tour bus taking detours down love’s path and nostalgia avenue, all the while anchored by an erudite, funny narrator.
There’s a clear joy in the written word running through the tracks on offer here and Kom crams them in to every line; “You mentioned you used to play the clarinet in high school in the early years of the millennium when you were young” runs a pregnant line in the gloriously titled waltz-duet ‘Fuck the Government, I Love You’ a funny and charming, how we met tale that Kom and clarinetist Ariel Sharratt can play their kids one day. Unless their love is a literary device only and I’ve been fooled by some great writing in which case they probably won’t and well done.
Musically the highlight of the album for me is ‘The Road’ where the high-hats are loose and there’s plenty of feedback twinned with a tale of being a band on the road.
“The road is a lot like the Cormac Mcarthy book,
Less cannibalism, but a similar look
There’s nothing more post-apocalyptic,
Than a landscape of truck stops and rock critics”
Elsewhere the compositions, while deft and clearly skilfully composed and performed are sometimes a little conservative for my taste. You also have to be in a lyrical mood but these are minor personal preferences and seem churlish when you consider the record contains the lines:
“So I told the receptionist goodbye, though what I meant was I loved her
And I walked out the door, ‘Cause I had just said goodbye
And it would be strange otherwise.”
“But her ex-boyfriend the gorilla from the pancake house got wind
By the threatiness of his death threats I could sense he felt chagrined”
Kom tells stories of far reaching imagination but also relatable, grounded tales of human nature. Nowhere is this more evident for music fans than on the single ‘Men In Hats’ ostensibly an ode to the 80s Canadian pop band who penned ‘Safety Dance’. It’s a catchy, coming of age composition that will have you reminiscing about your first vinyl/cassette (MP3?) love.
So if you fancy a night in with several books, some toe tapping tunes, a laugh or two and a really good, clever turn of phrase you could do a lot worse than Public Library.
Review by Sean Daly