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Tom Gabel – Heart Burns EP (2008)

October 30, 2008

So this surprising. I took Heart Burns for its first listen and instead of acoustic folky punk goodness hitting my speakers I get a drum machine pounding out a catchy beat. At first I was a bit annoyed but then I realised that it was actually a really great song. The song is “Random Hearts”, and Tom Gabel shows us what he can do with a laptop, electric guitar and some alone time. It’s fast, the beat is simple and the guitar riff quite catchy but it doesn’t really sound like anything Tom’s band Against Me! have done before and I suppose this is a good thing. I mean if I wanted to listen to Against Me! I have several albums to put on, although not all the songs here step so far from the mould that Gabel has been using with his band (and alone) all these years.

“Harsh Realms” and “100 Years of War” could probably fit somewhere early-ish in Against Me!’s career if you ignore the new and glossier production. “Harsh Realms” is just Gabel and his acoustic guitar pleading not to be abandoned. His throaty vocals are echoey and provide a bit of a hook, it’s a good song along with “100 Years of War” but I was surprised to find I actually quite liked the different direction most of the other songs take. “Conceptual Paths” again makes use of a drum machine, the tempo is slower but the beat is bouncier and Tom fits his vocal hooks right into the rhythm. Lyrically it deals with preparing for the future and not quite understanding your life; ‘I’m ready for the future/I’m ready for what happens next’ shouts Gabel in one of the best vocal performances on the EP.

“Cowards Sing At Night” is a short track with vocals and only a (slightly) Hawaiian sounding electric guitar keeping each other company. An anti-McCain song with Gabel singing, “Come back home Johnny/Come back home from Vietnam”. It’s nice and simple and good seeing some more obviously politically charged lyrics from Tom. Too bad it’s followed up by “Amputations”, which is an alright rock song but really nothing special compared to the other tracks.

Probably the best song on Heart Burns is “Anna Is A Stool Pigeon”. Country/Folk guitars and a full band setup including some nice harmonica. Based on true events where a group of friends (some may say terrorists….) were infiltrated by an FBI agent named Anna. It’s upbeat and the lyrically direct and I really like it. Heart Burns was not what I was expecting at all but in the end I’m pretty glad that Tom Gabel chose to experiment and defy expectations. It is a really solid EP with a nice range of everything that makes Tom Gabel a pretty great songwriter.

Official Myspace
Tom Gabel – Heart Burns

One Comment leave one →
  1. punk.rox.182 permalink
    October 30, 2008 3:21 pm

    Yes, Anna Is A Stool Pigeon is the best song on Tom’s solo EP. I just can’t stop listening to it.

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