The grunge aficionados in Philadelphia’s Burning Brides have always been able to do what most bands wish they could: conceal their sources. They’ve released three albums (including Hang Love), and only one of their songs has out-and-out felt like an appropriation of someone else’s material. The saving grace for “Arctic Snow,” the first single from the band’s 2001 debut, Fall of the Plastic Empire, may be the fact that the verse’s source material is an until-recently-unreleased Nirvana track called “Opinion,” which formerly circulated in a broken-tape-deck speed, not even remotely coming close to the key either song was originally played in.
The trick with music has always seemed to be embodying a genre without owing too heavily to any of its forebears. On Hang Love, Dimitri Coats and company are back to their old tricks, which are essentially the same tricks of the entire subgenre of grunge hangers-on. As always, they take inspiration from seemingly obtuse places: Opener “Ring Around the Rosary” recalls early Soundgarden, something that very few people actively want to do. But they’re sure not to become entrenched. On “She Comes to Me,” grunge meets classic rock, which is odd given its track-list proximity to “San Diego,” a straightforward post-punk rocker (“We’re gonna learn everything from bad habits” is as punk a sentiment as you could want). Coats sings “All my favorite songs were aboard the sinking ship” almost as if he’s acknowledging the doomed progenitors of both genres the song owes its existence to; that’s very much in line with the tongue-in-cheek revisionist nostalgia the songs shares with its closest cousin, Oasis’s “Roll with It.” The problem is that Oasis, unlike the Burning Brides, has no sense of self-awareness about it.
But the Burning Brides do something far more ballsy than conceal their sources. They acknowledge them peripherally and just long enough for the listener to grab hold. At that point, Coats will shift to the next idea, making it impossible to ever really pin the band down. That, it seems, is how it’s done.