Michael Burgin
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Michael Burgin

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Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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It would come as no surprise that crowds would fill local venues to peak capacity simply by a band's name alone—especially if that band happens to be Michael Burgin's cleverly monikered The Drinker's Union. While the name brings to mind the Oscar Wilde quip, "Work is the curse of the drinking class," there's much more to Burgin's brand of protest-oriented folk rock than mere boozy revelry.

Burgin's easygoing style is a draw in itself. At a recent Fred's Speakeasy show, it was almost 11 p.m. and band members were still adjusting and tuning before they took the plunge into their first number. Unfortunately, the sound system was gremlin-possessed to the point where the slogan proclaimed boldly on Burgin's MySpace page: "A most ARTiculate drunk" didn't ring true. But even poor sound quality didn't dim the enthusiasm of the fans; one woman in particular swayed eagerly to the music.

If the live show doesn't make this apparent, Burgin's Web site does: This local musician has a quirky sense of humor coupled with wistful, raw, stirring vocals. But the true centerpiece of Burgin's passionate songs is the political message of the middle-class struggle, and Burgin gives voice to those under-represented woes. In "Folk Singers Don't Start Riots," he sings: "What's going to happen the next time I get sick, and I can't afford your premium coverage?" If this fall's presidential election could have produced "Joe the Plumber: The Musical," this song would have topped the score.

The Drinker's Union concocts folk music in the tradition of social-activist troubadours Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger with the rocker teeth (and electric guitars) of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Burgin's political jargon is plentiful, tripping in and out of his lyrics with all the bitterness and sinewy musicality of early Billy Bragg—though sometimes Burgin's own penchant for cynicism flies in the face of recent hard-won and widespread hopefulness: In "Talkin' Trick Mirror Blues," the singer whammies his audience with, "I don't want to hear about the liars they're electing."

It's probably fair to say that listeners who aren't interested (and preferably pissed off about) politics will find little to endear them to Burgin. Yet, the singer/songwriter presents his material with such forthright earnestness that it's hard to discount him—this he aptly proves on his breviloquent, soon-to-be-released solo disc, Death Will Tremble to Take Us. Burgin writes adroitly, his wit shining through his rancor. In "Awkward Tuesday Night Blues" (a song title that would surely meet with approval from political-poet-folkie Bob Dylan), Burgin tells a would-be paramour, "You might be a piece of work but it's a work of art."

Is it a burn or simply an apt turn of phrase? Either way, the song works—as does most of Burgin's material. Death's dozen tracks balance brilliantly on a precipice between anger and beauty; between aggressively strummed acoustic folk and Clinton Wetherill's jangly Byrds-esque guitar solo on "The Camera Man"; between the dull thrum of a hangover and the sudden clarity of sun through storm clouds. No mere drinking songs, these. Nor are they strictly aimed at undermining "the man." Chances are, Burgin—whose songs are every bit as personal and heartfelt as they are socially biting—will eventually transcend both pints and pundits. - Viktorija Krulikas and Alli Marshall, Mountain Xpress


This record is a great companion in moment of recollection; A textbook record with all the necessary ingredients that evoke emotion. Drinker's Union draws on the rawness of The Cure, The Germs, and Social Distortion. If you enjoy great live music at your local pub, then Drinker's Union should knock a few back for ya! Standout songs are "Violently Hungry" and "Don't Even Know I'm Lying" - Loud Mouth Review


Much like their punk rock predecessors, Michael Burgin & The Drinker's Union eschews melody in favor of a reliance on attitude and the weight of the lyrics. Not that that's a bad way to go (lots of great bands do), and it's not a comment on their ability as musicians by any means. True, the songs are simple in their arrangements and instrumentation, but these guys play with gusto, volume and wild abandon, obviously in their musical "happy place." Despite the uncomplicated nature of their music, The Drinker's Union combines elements of punk, shoegaze and Americana into a teeming cauldron of semi-experimental craziness. It is certainly intense, and never lets you get quite comfortable with its ever-shifting direction. With constant, over-riding themes such as women, alcohol and apathy running through the entire album, listening to it is almost like setting a Charles Bukowski book to music (yes, that's a compliment). It simultaneously depresses you as it makes you feel better about your own life (like drinking a 12-pack while watching the Intervention marathon on A&E), leaving the mind in a weirdly-balanced state. Vocalist Michael Burgin barks and snarls his lyrics like a long-lost psychotic brother of Social Distortion's Mike Ness — forcing you to pay attention — but he also lays back on a few tracks, softening up just enough to let a hint of Robert Smith come creeping in. Honestly, while I certainly enjoyed listening to Violently Hungry, I don't feel as qualified as others might (including some in my office) to wax poetic on the creative tapestry of this particular band. So, I'll give the last word to the late, great Abe Lincoln who famously said, "Those who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like." Give it a shot. I did. - Brent Fleury, Bold Life Magazine


“The Gadfly” by Michael Burgin delivers an eclectic and highly experimental brand of rock. The lyrically weighty “Chapter 13” represents a strong acoustic effort infused with fervent emotion and very effective vocals as it tackles the issue of death and meaning. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this CD is its very purposeful, nostalgic, political, and unrefined lyrics. “Oh, Holy Television” is another stand-out track that demonstrates this with lyrics that are relevant and spiced with a nice dose of cynicism. Overall, this CD offers songs that are for the thinking-person, songs that exude warmth through minimal production, and most importantly, songs that defy the boundaries of traditional rock and enters the creative realm of experimentation. - Xavier, RadioIndy


Discography

2006 - The Gadfly (full length)
2008 - Hard Times (EP)
2008 - Death Will Tremble To Take Us (full length)
2009 - Violently Hungry (full length)
2011 - Sick on the Noon Day Sun (full length to be released in April)

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Bio

Michael Burgin is a singer-songwriter from the mountains of North Carolina. His music is folk with an indie edge, but fans of many genres will appreciate his emotional style and compelling lyrics.
At age 24 he has played countless gigs in the North Carolina area and has toured all over the east coast. He is currently in the process of releasing his 5th release, 'Sick on the Noon Day Sun', due out in April.