“Lithium Burn” by Deleted Scenes | Album Review

review by Cory Kibler | photos by Molly Misek

[Editor’s Note: The included photos are from Deleted Scenes’ “secret show” Sunday at O’Leaver’s Pub.]

The lead single from Deleted Scenes’ new album Lithium Burn is intriguingly unpredictable, but it’s a little misleading. “Stutter,” a song that’s video stars Dustin Diamond as himself (a.k.a., a bummed-out briefly famous guy), is an unsettling, neurotic, dissonant and aggressive song that would get your average Fugazi fan super pumped. It’s the first track I heard from the D.C. band’s new record, and it’s also the odd-man out.

The rest of Lithium Burn is also unsettling, but beautifully and hauntingly so, two adverbs I would never use to describe Fugazi’s music.

Right when lead track “Haircuts / Uniforms” started, I was immersed. I am not a post-punk expert, and I don’t know the exact nuances that set D.C. rock bands apart from other rock bands, and I won’t pretend to. But after listening to the record numerous times and picking apart each song based on songwriting, execution and lyrical content, I have seen that the critical acclaim surrounding Deleted Scenes’ prior two LPs is no fluke.

On the exterior, these songs are spiny and fierce. But when you strip away the intricate punk drumming and the strange-toned guitar notes, what you have left are extremely strong pop songs. The punk aesthetic colors the album, and when albums are color-coded, they’re easier to categorize, but to call this record merely “a great jittery punk-rock record” would be a disservice.

Everyone in the band is a master of their instrument, and the songs are air-tight. But, the cornerstone of this record are lead vocalist/guitarist Dan Scheuerman’s songs.

Scheuerman, who now lives in Omaha (and is a regular Hear Nebraska contributor) writes very infectiously. I know part of the appeal of bands like Deleted Scenes is that they are as far away from standard pop music as you can get: Their rhythms get weird, the lyrics are dark, the note- and tone-choices are totally unpredictable. But, the chords and melodies are thrilling.

Each song carries that theme throughout the record. Oftentimes, when the dynamic dies down and Scheuerman’s vocals get a little hushed, he sounds a little bit like Ben Folds, which is especially interesting considering that to my knowledge, Scheuerman is not from the South and has never served as a judge for The Sing-Off, a show which I have never seen. Yes I have.

Energy-wise, the album starts and proceeds to serve as a slow burn up to “Stutter,” the eighth track, which is the song where Deleted Scenes flip right the fuck out, and afterward, they spend the rest of the album cooling off and apologizing for setting fire to the host’s decorative fiberglass horse.

On the way up to “Stutter,” though, the song “Let’s Not Try to Fix Everything At Once” happens, and that’s a wonderful moment. This is the standout track of the first side of this record, and for me, of the entire album. The vocal melodies are bittersweet, the lyrics heartbreaking, and the music atmospheric and swelling. Most songs on the record also capture this mood, but this is the song that does it the best.

The thing I most appreciate about about Lithium Burn, however, is that I’m still only halfway through digesting it. I’ve listened to it plenty, but it’s densely packed with several moments of intense layering. I look forward to disassembling the record further only to take a step back and enjoy it with the knowledge that every little piece is in the right place.

photos below by Chris Dinan

Cory Kibler is an HN contributor and a special little guy, according to his older relatives. He is trying to be less lazy, but dinner parties keep getting in the way. Think of him fondly, and reach him via Hear Nebraska’s managing editor at chancesp@hearnebraska.org.