Thursday, 16 July 2009

Review - Kevin Devine - Brother’s Blood

Kevin Devine - Brother’s Blood

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7 out of 10

Brooklyn born singer-songwriter Kevin Devine has had a turbulent music career to date. Brother's Blood is already his fifth album, though his first to be released in the UK, and along the way he has been through a major label break up and a shift away from just him and his guitar to performing and recording with his 'Goddamn Band'.

To this end, Brother's Blood is best described as a schizophrenic album, constantly weaving between soft acoustic numbers, to full band blow outs. Whether this creates a coherent album is up for debate. While some may love the gear-shifts, I find them a bit clunky and really wish that this had been two albums (or EPs). Devine is, on this album, at his best when he plays with his band, allowing his lyrics to be propelled by more than just his guitar.

However, the album somewhat limps out of the starting gate, All Of Everything, Erased is a slightly odd album opener, though lyrically strong, it just lacks a strong hook. Comparisons to Elliot Smith have no doubt been cast before and this song does nothing to make me reassess my comparison. His vocal style is eerily similar as is the somewhat pessimistic tone of the lyrical content. However, the album really gets going with the powerful one-two punch of Another Bag Of Bones and Hand Of God. The former has a simple driving guitar line, with some of the more impressive lyrics you will read this year while the latter is one of the catchiest tracks on the album, but sacrifices none of Devine's penchant for evoking strong feeling with his words. Like his tour mates Brand New and Manchester Orchestra, the topic of religion is often broached, which of course allows for some strong language and imagery to be portrayed, while never feeling preachy or overdone.

However, the two sides of Devine are highlighted when he attempts an epic 8 minute song with the title track. Not that it's a bad song, but it is just far too over-long. Devine may not try to, but his understanding, and ability to craft, pop songs is fantastic, and it is when he moves in the opposite direction that his music begins to suffer. Tracks like Fever Moon and It's Only Your Life don't belong on the same album as Hand of God or lead single, I Could Be With Anyone. They just don't mesh at all, and maybe it's the track listing, but the coherency of this album is definitely disrupted by the constant fluctuations between full-band and solo efforts. The album closes with the shortest track on the album, again just Devine and his guitar, and leaves the album on a typically abstruse lyric.

Kevin Devine has shown throughout his career that he is a man of many styles and talents, but perhaps with this album he has shown too many of his cards at once. I would be happy to listen to an album with all full-band tracks, or an album just him and his guitar (like some of his previous efforts), but this seems to be stuck in an awkward transition. It is not a bad album, in fact it is very good. Devine is a hugely talented song-writer, it's just that he needs now to choose which direction to take his music in, because Brother's Blood has left him at a crossroad, albeit one that many musicians would be envious to be at.


1. All Of Everything, Erased
2. Carnival
3. Another Bag Of Bones
4. Hand Of God
5. Brother's Blood
6. Fever Moon
7. It's Only Your Life
8. Murphy's Song
9. I Could Be With Anyone
10. Yr Husband
11. Tomorrow's Just Too Late

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