Local album review: Burning Tree, Oppressive Heat EP (with audio)

Socially-conscious and introspective lyrics surf on distorted guitar swells that build and curl around crashing drums, which all help build the rip tide of reggae rock on Burning Tree’s new Oppressive Heat EP.

With a very Sublime-inspired ska-punk sensibility (ala tunes like “Ebin,” “Under My Voodoo” and “Burritos”) the aural vibe of Oppressive Heat rides like an aggressive, choppy day on the waves. The St. Pete quartet kicks off the EP strong with a track waxing on a topic that pervades the American psyche – money. “Greed” opens with snippets of television broadcasts chattering on about the fall of the Dow, the fear trade, debt consolidations and other topical concerns before dropping in a funky bassline, off-beat guitar strums and the vocals of lead singer David Rothe, who sings with a gentle forcefulness about the grip money has on today's society: “Livin in a world controlled by greed /  They’re going to keep us down by any means / So they can live more comfortably / Guess they forgot their morals / It all comes back just wait and see – oh, oh, oh.”

Not every track focuses on such solemn issues, however. “Whatcha Need” is an uplifting number about freeing your mind the sort of catchy chorus and bouncy back-beat ideal for revving up while getting ready for a show. The closing track, “Peace of Mind,” is another a standout, prompting listeners to let go of those things in life that keeps them worried or in a negative state of being: “Don’t you make no mistake and let the good things in life pass you by / And turn around at the end asking why / You never took the time to watch the waves roll by / Never took the time to have no reason why / Close your eyes / Just give into the groove / And when they ask you why you live your life this way, say / Nothing’s, nothing’s worth your peace of mind.”

What's stands out most about Oppressive Heat is Burning Tree’s impressive lyrical skills. Too many reggae rock groups fall back onto the easy (and hackneyed) subjects of chicks and drinking, but the Bay Area band seems to have a natural knack for crafting songs that reflect on the issues of everyday people with style and heart while not coming off as pretentious. The five tracks on Oppressive Heat work together as a cohesive, island-tasty whole and in a live setting, should get any crowd on their feet dancing and in primo party mode.

3 Stars

Burning Tree plays the St. Paddy's Day Block Party with Mighty Mongo and a dozen or so other bands this Thursday, March 17; hosted by Durty Nelly's in downtown St. Petersburg.

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