Mat Burke - Kill or Be Killed (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Mat Burke

Kill or Be Killed (2010)


Mat Burke is perhaps what happens when you're from Nashville but influenced by some punk--you bypass the city's country roots and into less twangy, more resonant folk territory. His resulting album, Kill or Be Killed, is a half-decent bout of mostly stripped-down, lightly punk-tinged folk that's only hurt by some musical and emotional stagnancy.

The opening title track, at first, feels like dated "hope" with Obama sound bites and cheering crowds. Luckily, Burke takes a turn in the song, asking "When will someone say 'Yes we will'?" It's one of the more hooky songs here, to be sure.

"Scars, Punks and Drunks" adds artificial bar chatter--and closing "boo"s and jeers--to make the track feel like a live one. Otherwise, it's a fairly typical love letter to the music he grew up on, harmonica bridge and all.

There are times, like the beginning of "Dawn of a New Revolution," where musically it feels similar to Brian Fallon's solo stuff. Burke isn't as musky vocally, though, nor as comfortably forlorn-sounding, and the song falls consequently short of some catharticism that would take it to the next level. Maybe that's not what he's going for, but the song feels too straightforward for something that goes just over six minutes.

By "Fell for the Promise," It's clear Burke likes to add a layer here and there to spruce up the texture. Here it's some vague static. On the near five-minute "Patches of Reality," it's some sound bites and natural sound (coughing, phone rings). It makes the songs a little more interesting when used, but not exponentially.

The honesty, candidness and musical ability on Kill or Be Killed is suitable enough, but the record isn't always the most attention-grabbing endeavor, unfortunately.

Kill or Be Killed
Half Empty, Half Full
Dawn of a New Revolution
Fell for the Promise