How I Roll
Lest anyone think he was becoming a mellow folkie singer/songwriter (see last year’s How To Dance and God Talk), Jonathan Burks has returned with another collection of odes to rock ’n’ roll debauchery, How I Roll. While more serious purveyors of country-ish rock grab headlines and record deals, Burks plugs along with tongue lasciviously in cheek (or lolling out), writing lyrics every bit as clever and songs every bit as vital. “Love is ageless, honey / fun is fun,” he sings in “Young Girls,” with the sleazy, magnetic machismo of Jon Spencer—a little bleary, and worse for wear and tear. He may be daring the world to take him seriously, but he and his band are no joke.
Initially, Burks comes off as a novelty act. His music is firmly bar-band fare, as if no innovation had occurred in rock ’n’ roll since Exile On Main St., and when he abandons his barely in tune singing for a peculiar pseudo-rap drawl it may not be instantly endearing. Burks’ subject matter ranks with punks like The Queers or Sloppy Seconds in terms of titillating offensiveness, but there’s no genuine aggression involved; it would take a hard-line prude to get up in arms. But for all the defiant laziness, this band is a tight, raunchy guitar/piano/bass/drums unit, and the songs have staying power, as perfect rousing party music or just something to put smiles on faces in almost any situation.
The penultimate track of How I Roll is perhaps Burks’ most epic tune yet, a blunt manifesto called “I Like It” which contains the priceless lyric “I was born in Racine, / live in Milwaukee / Lake Michigan’s my heart, / word to your mommy.” It ends with a cataclysmic effects-pedal jam that’s no ordinary noisefest—it’s twangy, Cramps-caliber wickedness. The ramshackle shuffle of Burks’ previous work is intact, but there’s a sharper edge to it, evidence of both philosophical angst as well as a growing professionalism. There might not be anything quite as classic as the “I’m Drunk” / “Drunkard’s Remorse” suite from 2010’s Loudmouth Soup, but this is Burks’ most consistently entertaining album yet.