Burnt Black Cars

Slow Down Molasses

Culvert Music, 2015


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


In the world of obscure bands, it wouldn’t be unfair to classify Slow Down, Molasses as a seasoned outfit, for they have not one or two but three full length releases in their catalog! However, although Burnt Black Cars is the group’s third release, in some ways – good and bad – the album has flavors of a wobbly debut effort.

In its quest to achieve a hazy shoegaze sound, this Saskatoon, Canada-based outfit has gotten a little too zealous with the reverb effects when it comes to mixing vocals. The band totally misses the mark here, and the excessively echoey vocals sound more amateurish than dreamy. However, this is probably the only unflattering aspect of Burnt Black Cars, and even though it is a pretty glaring flaw, the album as a whole has more good things to offer than bad.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another somewhat amateurish aspect of this record is how dirty and rough its general sound is. While this lack of polish might suggest a deficiency in the production values, a lot of prominent artists with bigger recording budgets than Slow Down, Molasses have sought this very sound. This is because there is something pure and honest about it. It is this purity and honesty that is the fabric of this record.

This release is partly inspired by the photographs that bandmember Tyson McShane’s father took of the May 1968 riots in France as an eyewitness. Even though the striking album cover would suggest otherwise, Burnt Black Cars thematically is not directly based on the riots. However, it does have an air of tumult and passion that the aforementioned theme might inspire, and this couldn’t be depicted more perfectly than the jagged and messy music on it.

Tracks like “Underneath The Cobblestones” and “Burnt Black Cars” have an anthemic Neil Young-like feel, revealing that the unrest of the riots drives the overall atmosphere of the album, at least on a subliminal level. This is also reflected, although with a different mood, on “Home,” “Resurrection Blues,” and “City Sublet,” which are poignant and emotional.

Slow Down, Molasses defines Burnt Black Cars as a dreampop/shoegaze record. But it is the burly and unkempt guitars that define the core sound of the album more than its ethereal aspects.

This band underwent a dramatic stylistic change on this record. With the genteel baroque pop style of their previous two albums Walk Into The Sea and I’m An Old Believer, the band has been rightfully called as “the Broken Social Scene of the prairies.” But the brawny and rowdy Burnt Black Cars totally belies and belittles this description.

It is commendable that Slow Down, Molasses made such a daring move to change up their sound so drastically on this record. Burnt Black Cars isn’t free of flaws, but it is still an impressive effort and a truly bold and wise move on the part of the band.

Rating: B

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