Let It Burn, GospelbeacH’s fourth album, is a thing of beauty tinged with incredible sadness. Shortly before its release, Neal Casal, who had recently rejoined the band, took his own life, a fact which can’t be ignored as one listens to the album. The opening number, Bad Habits, rams this home as the band sway through this sad ballad which is blessed with a beautifully realised and lyrical guitar solo while the lyrics, unintentionally of course, could serve as an epitaph for a troubled mind.
Casal had played on Gospelbeach’s first album but, with a finger in many pies, had only recently come back to the fold for the recording of Let It Burn. His presence is but one aspect here which allows one to suggest that the album is the best so far from Brent Rademaker’s reimagined California cosmic crew. There’s still plenty of punchy power pop and rock as evidenced on the excellent Tom Petty groove of Dark Angel, the snarling blend of new wave punk and west coast rock of I’m So High, and the organ swelled barrelhouse roustabout of Nothing Ever Changes while the closing song, Hoarder, slinks and shimmies with a Little Feat like sinuosity. Much of the album however is more considered and introspective with less of the jingle jangle as Rademaker and fellow songwriter, Trevor Beld Jiminez, delve into darker territory.
Good Kid is a badlands narrative delivered with a Steely Dan like flow but the meat of the disc is in three songs tucked away in the middle of the album. Baby (It’s All Your Fault) and Get It All Back are infused with the melancholic pop sensibility of Alex Chilton back in his Big Star days. The former has some wonderful guitar moments, George Harrison like slide alongside pedal steel, while the latter glides gracefully over swathes of mellotron. Fighter cries out with a defiant peal as Rademaker plays the outsider who refuses to lie down. It’s a big production number, swathed in strings with rippling piano and voice effects before closing with another epic guitar solo from Casal, a fitting legacy.