Burgess Meredith: The Retro Pop Band, Not Batman Actor
It seems appropriate that I write about Burgess Meredith in the week leading up to the release of the newest film of the Batman franchise — The Dark Knight Rises. Meredith’s iconic portrayal of The Penguin in the kitschy 1966-68 Batman television series is the first thing that comes to my mind when someone brings up the caped crusader. But, wait, there is no Penguin in The Dark Knight Rises? And the late great character actor died way back in 1997? Holy smokes! So who in the name of Gotham City is this Burgess Meredith?
Originally formed by Josh King (The Lemurs), John Vishnesky (Bell Curve), and Jesse Hester (The Polyphonic Spree, Sweet Lee Morrow), the Austin-based “supergroup” Burgess Meredith was eventually fleshed out with the additions of Deidre Gott, Blue Mongeon, Keith Lough and producer/engineer Danny Reisch. Together, they construct intricately layered pop tunes (with a tinge of some country) that seem to have been torn straight out of the popular music songbooks of the 1960s and 70s. That said, they never ape any one particular artist or band from that time period. Sure, you might find touches of The Monkees, The Beatles, Harry Nilsson, Ricky Nelson and The Kinks in some of their songs, but the resulting sounds are novel in their own right.
Burgess Meredith’s debut EP Banana Moon (2012) possesses an undeniably infectious blend of danceable rhythms and fuzzed-out wooziness. After one listen, there is absolutely no denying that Burgess Meredith knows how to write catchy songs. I mean, let’s just take “Loving Man,” a brilliant ode to the rollicking Nudie-suited country music of the 1970s which is then generously dosed with the sugar-coated pop sensibilities of the 1960s. POW! BAM! BOOM! As much as I love all of the tracks on Banana Moon, “Loving Man” is the track that I press “repeat” on the most.
Ever since I was a teenager, I believed that rock music reached its pinnacle in the 1960s. It was a decade when rock music was still young; the music feels free, adventurous and uninhibited. It is a style of writing and recording that was rarely perfected, and this is why I think the more-is-more approach to orchestration and production is something that deserves to be revisited. (Note: that is not to say that I do not enjoy the less-is-more philosophy as well.) Every once in awhile, we do get a few bands (such as the Elephant Six collective in the 1990s) who proudly rehash the lush musical qualities of the 1960s, I just wish there was more of it. Needless to say, I was absolutely ecstatic to discover Burgess Meredith, an Austin band doing this in 2012.