While that alone shouldn’t be a reason to give them any of your time, it presents an interesting question: is it an inherently bad thing if a band is concerned with aesthetics? You need look no further than Spinal Tap, KISS, or any hair metal band to realize that when aesthetics become the focal point of the performers no good can come of it. But it seems to me that when a group establishes a unified feel, mood, and look to their work there is the potential to do something unique without becoming overly bloated and verbose.

Peterborough, Ontario’s The Burning Hell lies somewhere between a solo project and a musical collective. The impossibly deep, robust vocals of primary songwriter/ukeleleist Mathais Kom are the most immediate focal point of the music, which also centers around usually-spare arrangements of acoustic guitar, the aforementioned uke, a variety of symphonic stringed instruments, and piano. Research into the band tells me that Kom is something of a ukelele virtuoso (whatever that means), but by no stretch do these songs sound like Don Ho or that other famous ukelele dude.

Rather, they feel like they’re being performed out of a well-aged tome of sheet music, the pages yellowed and curling, the sounds pulled from an era when men were gentlemen and ladies were nothing but demure.

I envision the band playing them in overcoats, twill pants, and top hats. This is especially true of tracks like “Dinosaurs,” “General Electric vs The Imperial Moth,” and “Everything You Believe Is A Lie” (a terribly charming and sad duet that runs down popular myths about religion, society, and the relationship of those singing it). Parts one and two of “Grave Situation” and “What Do You Get For The Man Who Has Nothing?” (like most of the tracks on here) are reminiscent of Magnetic Fields frontman Stephen Merrit’s recent side project, the Gothic Archies. Dingy, reserved, almost drab lead vocals on some songs, while others sound like they were cut from the same cloth as “the Monster Mash.”

It’s an intriguing group of songs that come together under a very unified tapestry, summed up well by a small postcard included in the CD version of the album. Kom (presumably) in a snug, almost ill-fitting grey suit, complete with uke case, holding on to a flock of luminous red balloons in front of dreary grey landscape, about to be pulled into the sky…and seeming mostly indifferent about it.

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