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Burn Movie Review

Sizzlingly Odd
In his debut feature, writer/director Mike Gan has created a small film that, if there's justice, will attain a cult-like status. "Burn" takes place in the course of one evening and entirely within the confines of a rural, out-of-the-way gas station shop.
It's the kind of place that loners might wander into for a hot cup of coffee at 3am. Obviously this is not a big budget film, but Gan squeezes an awful lot of goodness out of it. Maybe we should call it badness.

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Slaughter Beach, Dog - Safe and Also No Fear Music Album Reviews

On his third album, Jake Ewald reunites with former Modern Baseball bandmate Ian Farmer to explore pared-down folk-rock. It’s the furthest from MoBo he’s ever sounded.

In late 2017, 12 days after Modern Baseball performed a weekend of farewell shows for hometown fans in Philly, co-frontman Jake Ewald released his second solo album, Birdie. The consecutive events suggested an amicable closure: Ewald was signing off on the emo/punk band he’d formed in college and relocating full-time to Slaughter Beach, a hypothetical destination created to inspire his songwriting. After two LPs performed entirely by himself, the beach must’ve grown lonely; on Safe and Also No Fear, Ewald’s third album as Slaughter Beach, Dog, he’s joined by a full ensemble that includes Modern Baseball bassist Ian Farmer, his first official reunion with a former bandmate since their indefinite hiatus. Together, they dive into the pared-down folk-rock Ewald had just begun to explore on previous solo releases. It’s the furthest from MoBo he’s ever sounded, and maybe as a result, also the least engaging.


Although its clunky double phrasing betrays some anxiety, a title like Safe and Also No Fear feels reassuring coming from Ewald, who’s grieved the loss of a close family member and supported bandmates through mental health crises in recent years. But the album rarely reflects a corresponding sense of personal triumph. Opener “One Down” leans on a pedestrian acoustic pattern that plods in one ear and out the other. “I dress up nice/I feel all right/I get loaded/And I come home late at night,” Ewald sings, without enough conviction to absolve the cliché. He falls into a half-spoken drawl on “Dogs,” a tender discourse on human friendships (“I know he always understands me/Even when I am being evasive”), but the stream-of-consciousness melody feels as aimless as another night at the neighborhood bar.

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“Black Oak” achieves a more affecting result by ditching the vocal melody altogether: “His belly warm with drink/He leaned into the freeway in the night/Investigating exit ramps/Waiting for a sign,” Ewald recounts in an unnerving deadpan. The guitars drop out as the song’s protagonist meets tragedy: “They found him at the black oak/They dug him up last night.” A looping coda evokes the spaced-out lapse of highway hypnosis, as if the band were cruising those darkened roads themselves.

The spare electric guitar solos of “Tangerine” recall the charm of Birdie standout “Bad Beer,” or the sweeping arpeggios of 2016’s “Monsters.” But even with a full crew alongside him, it’s hard not to feel a kind of emptiness, a monotony that dampens Ewald’s personality. Throughout Safe and Also No Fear, there are flashes of his sheepish wit and contagious hooks—the same qualities that elevated quotidian anecdotes like “Tears Over Beers” in Modern Baseball’s discography. He sounds most confident on the harder-rocking “Good Ones,” a retrospective laundry list of letdowns, and “Heart Attack,” about the panic of realizing that the person you’re dating (or are you?) won’t return your calls. “My sunlight hurts my skin/I let the wrong one in,” he sings genially, reaching the album’s crowning achievement in wordplay: “Hand in hand grenade, you make me weak.” The blips of charisma are reminders of better music Ewald’s made prior; this time around, it feels as though he’s fighting against his own indifference.


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