The Burning of Rome - With Us (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Burning of Rome

With Us (2012)

Surfdog Records

The Burning of Rome tend to make one thing repeatedly clear (through both their music and various press releases): they are not here to follow trends or maintain any sort of norm. With their debut, With Us, the band states they seek to, "reach as many people as possible with our sound and offer musical asylum to those needing it." If neither of those statements sounds wholly unique, it's because they are pretty common themes in most music (and indeed art) today. Which leads us to where the Burning of Rome fall, somewhere between striving to be unique and relying on fairly standard conventions to create an offering that seems unconventional yet boring.

With Us frequently confounds both musically and lyrically. On more than one occasion the band will settle into a monotonous musical groove only to try and change it up with a key flourish or random guitar distortion thrown in. The perfect example is "Wake Up Edamame," which plods along for nearly 2:30 before randomly throwing in reversed guitar noises (if you're thinking like Red Hot Chilli Peppers "Give it Away," yes).

Lyrically, the album bounces from cliché to confounding. Tracks like "Norman Bates" (which offers a painfully straightforward retelling of Psycho) and "Island" (which retreads the frequent metaphor of an island for loneliness) are painfully dull. Other tracks offer lyrics like, "Lung sneeze me out / Like a disease / Love peg me down / Onto this bed / I'm begging you / Don't rape me now," which seems less like a well thought out metaphor and more like an opportunity to throw in a rape reference for shock value. When you have bands who write songs in the mind set of serial killers, or based on completely fabricated universes, you need to strive harder than vague metaphors and shoddy (and repeated) references to violence to really gain attention.

The Burning of Rome pushes so hard for uniqueness in their work but they continually retread ground already better covered by bands like Primus (and more recently MGMT). Once the quirk and zaniness of their music wears (and it does), you're left with an album that seems more interested in trying to stand apart than having anything worthwhile to say. This isn't to say that the Burning of Rome is incapable of making worthwhile music; they certainly show they have the chops to play competently. But until the message is more important than delivery, they'll be little more than a neon pant job on a boring house.