Devotchka - 100 Lovers
Fifth album from the Denver based quartet Devotchka makes good on their uncommonly catholic influences and fuses folk-punk kinetics with classical precison. In other words, they rock like good ‘uns and shore up the enterprise with strings, accordion, bouzouki, you name it. The skill with which they weld heritage foundations to contemporary styling is undeniable. That they have the decency and foresight to absolutely nail the song writing side of things as well … well, that's got me dancing on the table.
100 Lovers is outstanding. Its scope is bold beyond expectations. I could play you the first three songs and you’d nod approvingly: “Yeah, love that, very current, driving bass, swooping strings, a bit Arcade Fire.” A week later I could hit you with its second half, where dustbowl mariachi lights up the enterprise a desert red and you’d think it was a different band. (The Arcade Fire comparison comes with forethought, by the way. Such is the growing influence of the Canadian behemoths, anyone who uses a violin these days is in court on copyright charges. But Win Butler is a long term admirer. So, court dismissed.)
‘All the Sand in the Sea’ and ‘100 Other Lovers’ are early forays into the shifting space rock that defines the core of the record; tempo changes are mandatory and instruments appear and disappear before you can get a foothold. ‘Bad Luck Heels’ and ‘Ruthless’ are sandstorm examples of their Jose Cuevo tumult, mariachi filtered through a seam of pure Bad Seeds. A lyric sheet might well tramp on my fancies but there is a teasing inscrutability about the lyrics. Singer Nick Urata is blessed with pipes that recall the soul burr of Paul Buchanan via the world weariness of Thom Yorke. When you catch “No-one loves you more, my dear…” on ‘Exhaustible’, the melody triggers vague thoughts of Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’ a song similarly laced with weapons grade ennui. Throughout, even though Urata could sing 'Happy Birthday' and send you to the cliff edge, the unit's potency and punch steers a course around maudlin. For once, three or four listens feel like a disservice; the prospect of unpeeling the layers is tantalizing. The mystery deepens. Beautifully.