Review Summary: Dubstep Santa gives us coal.
A year ago today I tipsily stumbled over to a computer to write a poem about Burial's Truant
EP. I thought of doing the same for Rival Dealer
, but can't be bothered much in the same way I couldn't be bothered to toe the line between the appropriate levels of critical objectivity and sycophancy necessary for a "proper" Burial review. This has changed in the wake of Rival Dealer
. Now a big 3.0 at the top of this page reads like the begrudged praise it should rather than some stranger slapping your mother. Burial used to be untouchable royalty: safe behind an agreed line of respect and (let's be honest) worship. The recent EP saw him dragged down into the rabble and set upon by everyone who thought it would be a nice change to see his head on a pike.
To be honest, it is a nice change. I think we were all getting sick of the hyperbole stringing along with every release like a hoard of sickeningly passionate yesmen. A constant reminder that half the world was more than eager to let him have his way with their sister. The most annoying part of it was the fact almost all of the praise was deserved: it seemed he really could do no wrong. But now he has, and in the worst way realistically possible. Rival Dealer
isn't offensive, or even bad really, it's just disappointing. Horribly, crushingly disappointing. For the first time a lot of what Burial attempts simply just does not work.
For one, the “theme” and the way it is handled is pretty naff. Every little soundbite he employs is based on the idea of those at the fringes of society belonging as if Burial's some kind of charitable bastion of christmas cheer. While it's welcome new territory to see him so optimistic, the subject itself has already been touched on with much more tact in Kindred
. In fact, the comparison between the two serves to show just how hard Burial is pushing this theme and how polarised Rival Dealer
is as a result. On a more critical level, it doesn't leave much to explore when the EP's direction is made so blatantly obvious. There's little left for me to do but tear it to shreds.
The music itself doesn't fair so badly, but there are still plenty of parts needing to be met with gritted teeth – the unwanted result of over-long tracks when listeners have to sit through what they don't like in order to reach what they do. Rival Dealer
is an album which starts off on the bad foot and slowly hauls itself up to being passable. The title track, for instance, initially rests on a loop of bars which would be better served to leading up to something bigger. Not dreadful in of themselves, the constant banging of drums and a repeating siren outstay their welcome over the five minutes of use. It improves from there, but not enough to be forgiven.
Elsewhere Burial begins to sound a little bit cheesy. "Hiders" and "Come Down to Us" both find themselves dominated by over-dramatic, almost anthematic hooks. It's a rosy-glinted tone Burial is obviously not used to handling (understandably, considering how grim previous releases have tended to be) and as a result it comes across as entirely unconvincing. Not bad by any means: just lacking the depth we've come to expect.
There is a lot to enjoy in Rival Dealer
, but if it were a food it would be popcorn: tasty and immediately satisfying, but ultimately unfulfilling. Plus there're crumbs everywhere, though I really don't know where to go with that. Maybe the crumbs can be a metaphor for the remains of Burial's previously goliath hype? Perhaps I'm being too hard on him, but maybe the reason so many reviews are so harsh to Rival Dealer
is because the hope is Burial will return to being sad and make Untrue
again? Maybe I should stop writing empty statements and go get drunk? I think I'll do that.