A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
It’s probably a terrible idea to launch Earworm — our newest feature — with a song called “The Night Portland Burned.”
Recent events make it an indelicate proposition, but we’re going ahead with it.
“The Night Portland Burned,” from Covered in Bees‘ 2010 album Portland Steel, was the inspiration for Earworm — a biweekly feature wherein we feature a song from Portland’s heavy music scene that we can’t stop listening to.
For several weeks beginning in mid-October, we simply had to listen to “The Night Portland Burned.” It was compulsory. It was something we did about once a day until we finally worked it out of our system.
During this three-week period, we just wanted to tell somebody — anybody — how much we like this damn song, but we didn’t have any formal avenues.
At Post Mortem, we steadfastly avoid writing album reviews. For starters, we’re unqualified. We simply haven’t amassed enough experience in the heavy world to speak with any intelligence or authority. Secondly, someone in Portland will eventually release a stinker, and we’d rather not be the ones to bring it to the band’s attention. This town is too small, and we’d rather stay friends.
Besides, Portland Steel is four years old, so even if we wanted to write a review, the opportunity has long since passed.
Earworm sets us free from such constraints of time and politesse. Every second and forth Wednesday of the month, we can simply shine a light on whatever song has been serving as a soundtrack for our daily lives, for no other reason than that. If it appears in Earworm, it simply means we like it a lot, can’t stop listening to it, and we want to shout it from a rooftop.
So here’s our first specimen. We kindly suggest headphones.
The thing about “The Night that Portland Burned” is it probably isn’t even the best song on Steel — an album that is chockablock with would-be hits. “The Night that Portland Burned” is lyrically lesser than, say, “Tank vs. Spaceship,” a rocker of comic juxtapositions like “I am a necrophiliac in a world where no one’s dead / at the running of the bulls I am the guy wearing red.” It’s probably less musically complex than the multitude of parts in “God Damn the Queen.” And it’s nowhere near as heavy as the NWOBHM-inspired epic tale of “The Black Grimace.”
The appeal for us lies in guitarist Douglas Porter’s riff.
The riff itself is fairly simple and is repeated throughout the song as both intro and chorus. But it’s also irresistibly hooky, doubling back on itself like a snake in a retro video game. Singer Boo Leavitt must have recognized the riff’s simple power, too, because his melody wisely doubles it.
Moreover, we like the song because it reminds us of something. Portland Steel plays like a Ween album in the same way that each song is a well-studied pastiche of a genre or particular band’s sound. Throughout Steel, you can hear Leavitt conjuring Jello Biafra, Buzz Osbourne or even Phil Anselmo. If that’s truly the case — and not some figment of our imagination — then “The Night that Portland Burned” must be Covered in Bees’ homage to Betty-era Helmet.
And, well, that’s reason enough to shout it from a rooftop.
Covered in Bees is playing this Saturday at Geno’s.