Tom Burris

Tom Burris

For Sale


For a start I have to say, by all means give Tom Burris’s For Sale a try, especially if you can listen to a track or two first, and/or if you’re an Elvis Costello fan. But if you’re asking me if I personally enjoyed it… choosing between a positive and negative answer is kind of like choosing between Gore and Bush was. Neither of them really satisfies me nor fully represents my position.

Now granted, being able to say whether you think a rock record is good or not isn’t a crisis on the level of chemical warfare with Iraq. It’s just… I wish I was more excited about this album than I am, and I think it’s quite possible and even reasonable that other people — maybe even you, dear reader — will be. I’d also give Hosannas if it replaced Eminem on the charts, but that’s true of just about anything.

Now I have to beg your indulgence as I ask myself why do I feel this way? When I put on this CD, I find my feet tapping and my head bobbing. Burris, who wrote all the words and music, has an undeniable gift. One or two of the arrangements are a little clichéd, but catchy. Still my head was never turned, my heart was never thrilled.

I have found this album deceptively difficult to write about. I’ve been trying for weeks to think of a way of saying this is another solid, decent work that doesn’t happen to do anything for me personally, without wasting your time and Ink 19‘s screen space.

The experience of listening to For Sale is rather like that of going on a blind date and meeting a woman or man who is nicely formed and easy on the eyes… but somehow, you don’t feel any compulsion to see them again. And rock music that doesn’t compel listening is a liability at this point for me.

The biggest thing For Sale has going for it is Burris’s gift for arrangements and melodies, with the title track being the best example. Lyrically, he’s got his eyes on politics and current events, the songs being (apparently) from the POV of a Dick Cheney-like white-collar criminal: “People like me never go to jail–make me an offer, it’s all For Sale.”

But for the most part Burris’s lyrics lack the flow, wit, emotion and most of all that quality of sticking in the mind, of the best and most interesting songwriters. His singing voice is a baritone very much in the Costello mold, which may help him with some people… but hurts him with me. When it comes to rock singers, I’m a Smokey Robinson, Mick Jones (of BAD, not Foreigner), Pat MacDonald, and Dave Gahan kind of guy.

Let me allow for something. Every year there are records that I end up wishing I’d given better reviews to, because they grow on me (ask me about Madison Avenue’s The Polyester Embassy sometime). I think it’s entirely possible that this might be one of those CDs, and if that turns out to be the case, I’ll mention it in whatever year-end wrap we end up writing here at Ink 19.

But for now, all I can say is this is another solid, decent work that doesn’t happen to do anything for me personally. I hope I haven’t wasted your time.

Tomato Records:

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