Monday, 21 October 2013

Kevin Devine - Bubblegum/Bulldozer

Albums reviewed by jay@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk


So I start with a quandary: do I take this dual release as a double album? As siblings? A stand-alones? Or flip sides to a coin? Or does it really matter? Frankly it doesn't really matter how you approach these two albums. They are not a dreaded double with some contrite theme flowing through that is a result of too much Bolivian marching powder. This is a rewarding, shining, exciting couplet of albums that simply deliver. For no reason other than it came out in my hand first 'Bubblegum' is where we begin. 'Nobel Prize' is a clarion call to wake up, an insatiable powerpop hit of sunshine alt-rock not done so well since Evan Dando shaved his head, all coated with the best solo since Frank Black shaved his head as well! A shade more urgent and darker, 'Private First Class' is no less irresistible. A dramatically pounded acoustic heralds another shot of noise that will have you flailing around. This is where Dave Grohl has been aiming when he declares his love for Husker Du and The Posies. Devine succeeds where Grohl fails for there is no sense of posturing here, this is as direct as a heart attack and as deadly.

A twisted statement of how the few fucked it up for so many, 'Fiscal Cliff' is a frenetic invective, railing against those who moan about the "one percent" rather than taking responsibility themselves. It is all given to us in another slice of angular, post-new-wave joy. After the opening triple header things are slowed down on a backdrop of feedback and sombre drums. As 'I Can't Believe You' expands it evolves into a challenging, rewarding, sparkling song. Where at "33 I don't feel that old" and "I never thought the end was the end". Its impact hits deeper with each play. Cracked vocal, echoing around the room, lost and loose with a scratched guitar for company unsettles slightly, then a light is lit, a broad palette adding welcomed colour and balance to 'Red Bird'. Without these warm hues, it would be too bleak, then it parts the clouds sending golden shafts of light that fill you, before quietly building into a epically cacophonous yet stunning end. After the grandeur of 'Red Bird' we're flung around the room with the whip-smart rush of 'Bloodhound'. By no means throwaway, it simply cracks you into another shining gem resplendent with a Westerberg-ian slice of raucousness. The title-track rides in on a glorious fuzzed-up hit of bass and some of the album's sweetest harmonies. This is a masterclass in all that is great in American alt-rock. All the while we hear that we'll "never be alone again".

Allowing us to catch our breath and wipe your sweat off the shoulder in front of you, 'Sick Of Worlds' is a languorous sway that has a bittersweet sting in its lyrical tail. Just when you feared it could be a little disposable it serves up a wickedly noisy punch to take us out with. 'Capybara' is a singular, concise, reverb, echoing instrumental leading us into 'She Can See Me'. This may be the album's first misstep as it doesn't grab you in the way of that before it. It has a delicious Kim Deal groove but it fails to make its mark. It does fantastically breakdown into an almost stoner groove that near saves it. It bleeds sonically into 'Somewhere Unoccupied'. Devine's vocals right in front of you, biting at your eyes and ears, then they step back with a sublime melodoic grace before taking you over again. You then find 'Somewhere...'  infecting all of you in the best possible way. And to 'Bubblegum''s closer 'I Don't Care About Your Band'. A blissed-out, perfect ending to a wickedly delightful album.





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It's hard not to make comparisons to its twin, but I think it is easier to point you to the albums' covers. 'Bubblegum' is a technicolour melting portrait while 'Bulldozer is a monochrome frame of Devine. That's not to say 'Bulldozer' is lacking in colour, depth and texture; rather that it is a more personal, intimate collection. 'Now Navigate' guides us in. It is still lit with magical harmonies, but whereas you would have been bulldozed with colliding, crunching guitars, here there are strings and a sense of space and measured grace. When the guitars sound they are no less decisive, but it all shimmers and glides rather than tempered rampaging. 'Little Bulldozer' shines iridescently on perfect harmonies. It charms and has a kooky grace with a closing tempo that recalls Squeeze at there most poptastic.

A Spanish-inflected guitar motif charms you into 'From Here'. It goes by almost too quickly, subtle organs lending it a fairground waltzing state. A charming delight of a song. Where "he reconsiders everything he knows". It's has a feel akin to a lost Finn brothers classic. 'Couldn't Be Happier' is the first stutter on 'Bulldozer'. It is a little insubstantial and lacks a sense of depth that we have enjoyed so much already. In contrast, 'You Brushed' is an album stand-out. It has a hidden, ragged glory, like Neil Young fed through Redd Kross ingested by Tom Petty. It has swirling keys and those infectious harmonies, while being a stomper of a song. We are then charmingly wrong-footed by the jaunty, foot-tapping of 'The Worm In Everything'. A catchy earworm of a song that hooks you in and envelops you. Loose, beguiling slide and even more sedate feel than that of 'The Worm...', 'Matter Of Time' is a lazy Sunday song. When the hours go slowly and you lie in the warm embrace of the "strawberry sun". It has a unhurried, near childlike sense of wonder and love to it.

After the warm bath of 'Matter Of Time' we are hit up with possibly the best song of both albums 'She Can See Me'. It is utterly irresistible; a joyous rush of blood to every limb while dancing like the world is going to end and begin when you get the chance to kiss her. A perfect rush in 2 mins and 18 seconds. The sense of quality and class is further upheld by 'For Eugene'. This is a sweetheart of a song. It has an undeniable grace, wit and sense of magic sparkling in a cloudless night sky. 'Safe' brings us to the conclusion, and no other song here could have done a better job. It flits, it has powerful strokes, it is full of style and takes you out effortlessly. Devine has given us twenty-two songs. Two albums that alone would be wonderful and fulfilling, yet together they compliment and delight. This is not a case of quantity over quality, just two albums that will long continue to reward and light your day.



Kevin Devine's website

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Catch him live:

Oct 21 Old Rock House, St Louis, MO
Oct 23 The Nether Bar @ Mill City Nights, Minneapolis, MN
Oct 24 The Record Bar, Kansas City, MO
Oct 25 Hi-Dive, Denver, CO
Oct 26 Kilby Court, Salt Lake City, UT
Oct 27 The Shredder, Boise, ID
Oct 28 Vera Project, Seattle, WA
Oct 29 Backspace, Portland, OR
Oct 30 Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, CA
Nov 01 Soda Bar, San Diego, CA
Nov 02 Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA
Nov 03 Pub Rock Live, Phoenix, AZ
Nov 05 Stubb's Barbeque, Austin, TX
Nov 06 Club Dada, Dallas, TX
Nov 07 Fitzgeralds-TX, Houston, TX
Nov 08 One Eyed Jack's, New Orleans, LA
Nov 09 Masquerade, Atlanta, GA
Nov 10 The Social, Orlando, FL
Nov 11 Jack Rabbit's, Jacksonville, FL
Nov 13 The High Watt, Nashville, TN
Nov 14 The Evening Muse, Charlotte, NC
Nov 15 Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC
Nov 16 The Camel, Richmond, VA
Nov 17 Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, Washington, DC
Nov 19 The Basement, Columbus, OH
Nov 20 Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
Nov 21 Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA
Nov 22 Webster Hall, New York, NY
Nov 23 The Space, Hamden, CT
Nov 24 Brighton Music Hall, Boston, MA
Nov 26 Center Stage Theatre, Atlanta, GA
Nov 27 "Simple Gifts IV" @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ
Jan 18 Club Manufaktur, Schorndorf, Germany
Jan 21 Blue Shell, Koln, Germany
Jan 22 Schlachthof, Wiesbaden, Germany
Jan 23 Kranhalle, Munchen, Germany
Jan 24 Magnet, Berlin, Germany
Jan 25 Passion Victim Festival @ Knust, Hamburg, Germany
Jan 27 B72, Vienna, Austria
Jan 28 PPC, Graz, Austria
Jan 29 Weekender, Innsbruck, Austria
Jan 30 Rockhouse, Salzburg, Austria
Jan 31 Rote Fabrik, Zurich, Switzerland
Feb 01 Parterre, Basel, Switzerland
Feb 04 The Lexington, London, United Kingdom
Feb 05, The Louisiana, Bristol, United Kingdom
Feb 06 The Soup Kitchen, Manchester, United Kingdom
Feb 07 Nice N Sleazy's, Glasgow, United Kingdom





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