Red Pulpy Mess
Jonathan Burks might strike a cockeyed drunkard’s pose in his songs, but the Milwaukee singer-songwriter-smartass is no slacker. The new Red Pulpy Mess is his second album of 2010, coming just a shade over six months after the terrific Loudmouth Soup. If Soup roared with the go-for-broke abandon of a weekend-long bender, the more contemplative Mess offers up drinking songs imbued with a sense of romantic loss that no amount of cheap beer can wash away. “Most of the time I beat myself up for not being good at being in love,” Burks sings with local chanteuse Heidi Spencer on the end-of-the-night honky-tonk weeper, “Ain’t Meant To Be”; on Red Pulpy Mess, he makes a go of romance anyway, with mixed results.
Once again backed ably by the city’s most arena-ready bar band (this time rounded out by ringers like Spencer and Allen Cote), Burks doesn’t spend too much crying in his beer on this collection of self-described “love and/or anti-love songs.” Burks works his well-lubricated drawl to great effect on “Sexy Bitch,” which quickly flips the script from a lame come-on to treat a woman “better than Mother Nature did” into a hilarious act of self-objectification, with Burks wolfishly demanding that she “lay me on your plate and dig in like dinner.” Nothing else on Red Pulpy Mess makes as strong of an impression; while Stones-tinged tracks like “Twenty-Two Forevs” and “It Just Ain’t Right” deliver solid trash-blues kicks, the songs generally fall into a comfortable mid-tempo groove that falls below the standard set by Loudmouth Soup. Maybe that’s by design—Red Pulpy Mess might be cluttered, but it’s got a big heart.
Jonathan Burks celebrates the release of Red Pulpy Mess Oct. 30 at Linneman’s.