Needs more cowbell? While true that the cowbell is among the
instruments used on Mike Vasas and the Beasts of Burden self-titled
debut (along with the mandolin, dulcimer, marimba and harpsichord),
one would be hard pressed to say that this album needs more of
anything. As it stands, it represents an eclectic mix of sounds that,
to use a cliché, "make beautiful music together."
Mike Vasas has compared to the likes of Neil Young,
David Bowie and Bob Dylan (I would add AMC's Mark Eitzel
to that list), and the Beasts of Burden cite influences
as widespread as The Arcade Fire and the Beach Boys.
However, to try and compare the band's overall sound
to other artists is difficult -- there's simply so
much going on here. The album opener, "Cross the Border," starts out with simple
guitar and folksy vocals, but adds layers of sound as it marches on
towards a climax. "Makeshift" is a sort of bluesy lounge, Bob Dylan
playing at Ziggy Stardust, and "Slavery"'s dreamy soundscape conjures
up images of Wilco and Radiohead. Much of the album features thick,
rich layers of instrumentation, but Vasas himself seems to shine
brightest when accompanied by the slower, simpler melodies of songs
ike "Selfish Circles" and "One Day."
Favorite Track: Track 11, "Shells"
Michael Fiegel is a freelance writer and graphic designer. His diverse
background includes journalism, radio copywriting, technical writing,
game design and music reviewing. He is best known as the creator of the
Internet cult sensation, Ninja Burger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at his website,