Early Reviews for ‘This Charmed Life’
Sound Advice – The Torontoist, Tues Mar. 9
Hero Hill – Tues, Mar. 9

‘This Charmed Life’ is a new collection of songs from a small and intimate version of Peterborough’s The Burning Hell. Featuring sparse arrangements of only ukulele, cello and electronics, The Burning Hell’s Mathias Kom sings about winter, earthquakes and finding the bodies of old friends in the woods. Released by (weewerk), ‘This Charmed Life’ is available only digitally through www.zunior.com and on limited-edition vinyl at Burning Hell live shows throughout Canada and Europe in 2010.

I hope you like this record. I don’t know what to make of it myself: it’s too long to be an EP, and a bit too short to be a full-length. It’s not a solo album since Darcy and Walter and Jordy are all over it, but it’s not really a full-band Burning Hell album either. So what is it? I don’t know. I’m not always good at answering questions. I do know that recording it was a lot of fun, despite how sad a lot of the songs sound, and that it would have been completely impossible without Darcy’s cello magic, Walter’s electronic wizardry, Jordy’s production chops, Leigh’s design savvy and of course Gabe’s beautiful artwork. So big ups to them, and word to all of their moms.

As for the songs, about half of them were written in a cabin outside of Whitehorse during a cold snap in December 2008, when I was feeling a bit weird because of all the wood chopping and the quiet. There are a few exceptions, though: Most of ‘Don’t Let Your Guard Down’ was written around ten years ago and used to be called ‘Zorritos’ after the town in Peru that I wrote it about. An earlier version appeared on the very old Burning Hell album ‘Tortured Lost Souls Burning Forever’. The bones of the instrumentals ‘70 Mile House’, ‘100 Mile House’ and ‘150 Mile House’ were written on the long bus ride from Whitehorse to Vancouver, and are arbitrarily named after towns along the highway. ‘Earthquake and Volcano’ was written for ‘Baby’, but I decided early on that it was too sad and quiet for that album, so I didn’t even teach it to the rest of the band. Finally, this album contains the original version of the song ‘The Things That People Make, Part 3’. We recorded another version of it with the whole band later in 2009, which appears on our split with the amazing Construction & Destruction.

Here are the lyrics to all the songs – they go like this:

Robert’s Bad End: Robert, you were such an idiot. But nobody blamed you for it. You saw neither the forest nor the trees, even when you worked as a logger. And it didn’t take a psychic or an augur to predict you would come to a bad end. It was nearly a week before they found your body, and when they did, it was a Tuesday. You always liked to go out on Tuesdays for cheap wings and half-priced drinks until ten. When they found you, your eyes were still open, and you were smiling and wearing your good clothes. Your wife, she was patient with you, and your kids tolerated you. You had plenty of friends. You had a great start and a good run, so what does it matter if you had a bad end? Bad end, bad finale, alone in the woods, down in the valley. Alone in the woods near the rocks by the river bend. But all ends are bad ends in the end.

Don’t Let Your Guard Down: The wind is not going to blow me away. Getting thin, though, and skin is looking grey. Downtown just hasn’t been the same since the oil-boom days, and the market’s not so self-assured anymore. The waves are tiny but the current is deceptive. Miami style is alive again and the Speedo has been resurrected. The kids are all floating out to see with the riptide and their parents never learned how to swim: pity. In this town new people are something you never see; the same ones keep returning like smallpox or TB. The socialists are unionizing for a health plan and a raise, but you know that one for all or all for one it’s just another day. In this sad town, don’t let your guard down. In this bad town, don’t let your guard down.

Earthquake & Volcano: When fire met force, they were instant friends. Earthquake and volcano together made islands.When god saw dirt, he said ‘this must end’. Water and holy ire, boat, beast and island. At the end of time, will the dead attend through earthquakes and volcanoes, together an island.

Last Winter: Last winter there was more snow than we could remember. More snow than you could shake a stick at, not that you would. Last winter all the trees were dismembered in an ice storm, but it left things looking good. Last winter the rafters cracked in the attic. Car tires popped and engines stopped. The televisions were all snow and static. Little birds trying to migrate died in mid-flight and their frozen bodies dropped onto the runways of the airports, and the pilots looked around at the rain of tiny birds that was covering the ground. They all said ‘well, it’s too cold and strange outside today to fly.’ Last winter we played cards, even though I hate cards, and we drank a lot, ‘cause well, that’s what you do. Last winter feeling good and getting along was hard, but you said ‘what’s done is done’ and I said ‘I guess that’s true but baby, there’s no need to ever go outside if we make the right decisions now: we could stay in here all winter and let the city bring the plow to dig us out, and by then we’ll be thin and all in love again.’

Northern Life: Veni vidi vici – that’s what I spelled out on my Ouija, so I came and I saw and I conquered for a month or two. I said ‘here I will build my palace, under the aurora borealis, and spend every shortest day and longest night with you.’ I never thought I’d stay for so long, but just like the Germans in the Yukon I came for the romance and I stayed ‘cause I forgot to leave. Now I’ve left my heart at the Westmark Hotel; I think I left my dignity there as well. I guess a northern life is not the life for me. The evil of the dark is a religious myth. The real terror is the folks you have to share the dark with. When it starts to feel like home, they call it Stockholm Syndrome. And now it’s close to time to go. I can’t see the snow banks through the snow. A kiss on the cheek and one last drink for the road.

The Things That People Make, Part 3 (West Coast Version): The coolest place to record a recording is Burnaby BC. It’s not too crowded in the studio, it’s just Darcy, Jordy and me. The bus ride down from Whitehorse was as long as a mayfly’s life, and an old man with a stutter told me the best joke of all time. He said ‘what’s red, and yellow, and orange, and looks good as a hippie’s attire?’ I said ‘I give up’ and he gave me a wink and said ‘f-f-f-f-f-f-fire’. And I laughed, and then I sang: this charmed life is charming beyond measure. The work feels a lot like pleasure, and there’s a season for leisure and a season for leisure. In this charmed life, I love all of the things that people make. I love their tricks and their games and their millions of names, the wrong answers and the right mistakes. As the cyclists cycle by with their pant legs tucked in so tight, I wonder what kind of white wine they’ll be drinking at home tonight. Spring will bring the flowers to the feet of the city trees, and the honey bees will buzz subtly as the ‘b’ in ‘subtlety’. And the rabbis and the ministers will play rock paper scissors in the park to decide once and for all whether unicorns were left behind by Noah’s Ark. And the bears in the woods and the cougars in the bars and the leeches and the sharks in the cars will say…

All songs by Mathias Kom. Musicians: Mathias Kom, Darcy McCord, Walter Bloodway.
Engineered & produced by Jordy Walker at the Garage in Burnaby BC 2009.
Design by Leigh Kotsilidis.  Artwork by Gabe Foreman.