Fuel

Review of Sunburn -- from Miami New Times

Review by Adam St. James

Sunburn bursts open with an industrial flourish that might lead to quick pigeonholing of Fuel alongside angry folks such as Trent Reznor of nine inch nails and the guys in Filter. But then something happens: The band eclipses that already-getting-rusty sound with melody and much welcome diversity, revealing how a modern-rock band can be both noisy and pissed off and sweetly musical on the same disc — and make it work.

Fuel was conceived by guitarist Carl Bell and bassist Jeff Abercrombie in rural western Tennessee. After recruiting vocalist Brett Scallions and drummer Kevin Miller and selling 5000 copies of a demo tape, the group relocated to the big city — sort of. Actually, they landed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, from where they felt they could more easily infiltrate the metropoli lining the eastern seaboard. After selling 10,000 copies of the independent CD Porcelain, Fuel signed with Sony/550 Music. Sunburn is the result of that association.

Clear, concise production by Steven Haigler (the Pixies, Local H) and the band’s solid playing propel Sunburn. Scallions sings with confidence, whether rocking full tilt on “Ozone” or employing classic power-ballad technique on “Hideaway.” Lyrically, songwriter Bell leans toward familiar tales of confusion and lost love so prevalent among songwriters in their early- to mid-twenties, as on the lazily named lead track “Untitled” or stylistically psychotic “It’s Come to This.” On the latter Bell has Scallions lamenting “I fear I’ve wasted all my sun/I fear I’ve wasted all my time/Held my eyes closed for too long” over a background of changing tempos and grooves.

Label execs picked “Shimmer” as the album’s first single, but a more adventurous choice — the rollicking, socially poignant “Jesus or a Gun” or stop-timed “Bittersweet” — might give potential fans a higher octane injection.