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'You Can't Burn Out If You're Not On Fire'
(Rude Records)

Colin Liddell

colin liddell


I blame the Yorkshire weather. Growing up, the five young lads in Summerlin must have spent a lot of time indoors watching American TV imports rather than racing their whippets or fancying their pigeons in the rain-swept, post-industrial wasteland of Oop North.

Hence the whole sun-kissed skater-kid-trying-to-impress-the-girl-he-wants-to-take-to-the-school-prom vibe. Heck, the clue is in the band name and that of their debut album, a quote from the Californian Lizard King himself. But there are two Californias: the troubling, fucked-up place that people live in and which inspires darker music like that of The Doors or even The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and then there's the one that makes it onto the Disney channel.

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Summerlin reflect the second: a cosy suburban world where plot lines are driven by petty problems and petulant sentiments like "Growing Up Sucks" (No, it f**kin' don't). Halfway in and despite the occasional reference to the Yorkshire weather – "it's co-o-o-old outside-a-a-a" – and the occasional bit of bone-crunching riffing from what sounds like a mutinous guitarist, I can't shake the feeling that Summerlin are auditioning for the role of the slightly rough but ultimately lovable kids in a soap set in a Beverley Hills high school.

Image-wise – and I'm hoping the promo shots are way out of date – the comb-over hairstyles are straight out of the Justin Bieber or Zac Efron playbook.

The band obviously has a lot of talent, energy, and drive; so much so that you occasionally feel yourself getting swept up into their breathless optimism and slight feeling of being slightly romantically miffed. Maybe in future years, people will talk of their California pop-punk period the same way we talk about the Beatles cranking out Long Tall Sally for Reeperbahn punters: a prelude to something more original.

This can't be their true selves, and if they ever blow away the Californian sands, I'm pretty sure there's plenty of Yorkshire grit underneath.

Track 7, 'United Divided' and the title track offer signs of hope – the darkness breaking through the sunshine, if you will. On the first, growling, low-tuned guitars and a raw, potent vocal kicks through the bouncy bubblegum that makes up the majority of their sound; while 'You Can't Burn Out If You're Not On Fire' kicks off with a vaguely NWOBHM feel that stalks the song through its breaks and changes, right to the end.

Hopefully a road-to-Damascus, soul-finding moment is just around the corner for this young British band.



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