You’ve got to love supergroups; it’s the chance for a load of well known, successful musicians to come together bringing with them all their influences to create new music. Sometimes it works (think Them Crooked Vultures, The Dead Weather and of course Cream), sometimes it goes horribly wrong (think Box Car Racer, Velvet Revolver and The Good, The Bad & The Queen), but every time without fail it causes intrigue for fans of the relevant band members involved. So onto The Burns Unit, a Scottish-Canadian supergroup consisting of Emma Pollock previously of The Delgados, Future Pilot AKA, Karine Polwart, Kim Edgar, King Creosote, Mattie Foulds, MC Soom T and Michael Johnston. Admittedly this list isn’t quite as impressive as if I were to name all members of Them Crooked Vultures, but if like me you’ve only heard of Emma Pollock and The Delgados, there will be at least a little bit of excitement running through your veins I hope.
Side Show itself is as eclectic as the artists involved, with elements of folk, rock, dub and even cabaret all making an appearance. The mixtures of genres are also helped along by the fact the lead vocals are performed by different band members from song to song. It makes for some extremely interesting listening. The songs are beautifully layered with various different instruments as you would expect, although it is fair to say that the final product sounds very acoustic.
This is the point where I would normally mention what I feel to be the strongest songs on the album, however I can’t do that with Side Show. Each song is as strong as the one preceding it, I can’t think of one weak moment that makes the stronger moments stand out. I will however mention the couple of moments on the album that made me realise just how good it really is: Towards the end of ‘Trouble’ when Emma Pollock does her acapella “Down down downs”, the harmonies are so simple and powerful. The almost Radiohead-esque backing track in ‘Future Pilot A.K.C’ and finally when MC Soom T sings as only she can on top of a backing track that sounds like it’s come straight from a fun fair; it shouldn’t work but it does.
The Burns Unit will no doubt get lost behind the bigger more successful names that are around at the moment. This supergroup doesn’t have that big name band member needed to help with the press, but it does have a charmingly superb album that I would recommend anyone gives at least one listen to. 10/10