Monday, November 16, 2009


Wednesday, January 02, 2008 
The Toff in Town

Tonight's show is, unlike tonight's performers, a sell out. Rowland S. Howard's sporadic performances are no less compelling for their rarity and tonight he is on mesmerizing form with many in the crowd clearly agreeing. "Legend." yells one audience member after a sterling version of Shut Me Down "Legends are not here," he animatedly responds. "Legends are somewhere else. You can put your hand through them". "You're still really good." says another, eliciting a bashful smile from the dapper gentleman, "Well, with that in mind..." and so begins Undone. Taking most of the set from 2000's Teenage Snuff Film album, Howard still resembles a coathanger that just happens to have a lucid-dreaming guitarist hanging from it. There is a (literal and metaphorical) lightness about him when he's away from the microphone, and a resemblance to being mid-fix when singing his vivid accounts of spectacular journeys: "Into the dark darkness / I gave away myself / Tripped on the spiral stairs / Tumbling down the well / I fell on a soft spot / I'm white heat, I'm white hot" he sings on the truly galvanising closer Autoluminescent. Some might find him monotonous and dull given the absence of dynamics, his loose chording and accidental muting of some strings when hacking at his white Fender Jaguar, and frequent mumbling of lyrics, but his is a honest and rugged account of survival and many feel lucky to witness it, some came from afar as Japan to see this and were not disappointed.

The Devastations however, do not possess such authority, yet. When the curtains part it seems the bogan chic offspring of Hall and Oates have taken to the stage - the latest look for these chameleons. This appropriation of style extends to almost everything The Devs do, and with calculated aplomb they proceed to dispatch nine finely-tuned songs and a well-judged encore in under an hour, highlighting all three albums. Opening with Oh Me, Oh My, a song that seems to divide people into the 'hate it' and 'used to hate it, now I love it' camp (indeed most of the Devs songs sit somewhere between the artful sleaze of Sir and the hot noise of Jesus and Mary Chain which is an acquired taste), followed by the sinister and low-key Mistakes, the surging Take You Home and cold but compelling Previous Crimes. Overall though, while they do rely more on pedals and effects than most three-pieces, it's not to their detriment, it's the way they do what they do that may alienate some: a hint of "fuck we're cool" permeates their error-free show. New song Moves, Moves is disco-lite and seems lighter still for being followed by the long and Suicide-like The Pest which dazzles emptily. With a minimal encouragement (hey, we're cool too, we know the score) they return for the encore of What's A Place Like This Doing In A Girl Like You? and it's here that singer/bassist Conrad Standish graduates from the Dave Graney school of lounge-lizard charm and The Devs, despite their coldness and reliance on black humour, succeed.

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