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When something promises a lot given the participants, the expectations understandably ratchet up as well. So that's why Electrafixion's sole album comes across as an experiment in frustration more than once. The prospect of Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant working together for the first time in around seven years revived the hopes of the Echo & the Bunnymen fan base that the pleasant but not often striking solo and side projects in the interim would be left behind for something more distinct. That Electrafixion was, but Burned still disappointed as much as it pleased. A lot of it had to do with McCulloch's wholehearted embrace of Nirvana and grunge -- Burned isn't Nevermind redux, per se, but the wickedly entrancing combination of voice and guitars from Echo days turned into a full-on rock stomp. Sergeant, essentially, is wasted -- while his playing can't be faulted, much of the time he's playing feedback-heavy mega-rock riffs that sound like somebody trying to prove he's still with it. McCulloch, meanwhile, often has an unpleasant whine in his distinct vocals that also sounds like somebody trying far too hard to impress. If this was a totally new band, these elements might be overlooked (or even celebrated), but given the duo's past history, everything comes across in comparison to that past, often poorly. It's a mistake to say that Burned is a complete wash, by any means, as both still have strengths aplenty and quite often play to them. Lead single "Zephyr" actually kicks some major butt with style, with a classic spiraling-up Sergeant riff amped to the max and a gutsy performance from McCulloch. Meanwhile, the two tracks rescued from McCulloch's abortive collaboration with Johnny Marr also appeal, especially the comparatively sly and strong "Lowdown." "Who's Been Sleeping in My Head?" is a classic McCulloch title, while the song itself has a nicely drugged-out atmosphere. By and large, though, Burned is an opportunity missed.

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