I’m going to talk about how much I enjoyed Devil Love’s full-length debut, Broken Things, a blues-influenced album of 90s rock and roll. But first, a quick dive into the nature of enjoyment in our current COVID world.
If you watch old prison movies, you’ve seen prisoners wake up in their cells and mark a tally on their wall, allowing them to track how long they’ve been incarcerated, and how long until they’re released. Many of us have done something similar during the pandemic, using Netflix originals to mark the passage of time. Tiger King was early pandemic and now we’ve transitioned into Pretend It’s a City, which is essentially director Martin Scorsese laughing while famously blocked writer Fran Lebowitz complains about a New York City that no longer exists while walking around a New York City that no longer exists.
The show has created a few viral moments, perhaps an indication of how starved we are for new stimuli not related to politics or viruses. One of the more famous snippets is when Lebowitz monologues on guilty pleasures:
“I have no guilty pleasures, because pleasure never makes me feel guilty. I think it’s unbelievable that there’s such a phrase as guilty pleasure. In other words—like, unless your pleasure is killing people! My pleasures are absolutely benign, by which I mean: No one dies. No one is molested…No, I don’t feel guilty for having pleasure! We live in a world where people don’t feel guilty for killing people, they don’t feel guilty for, like, putting babies in cages at the border. They don’t feel guilty for this, but I should feel guilty for—what? For having two bowls of spaghetti? For reading a mystery?”
It’s an important idea because there often is this pressure to make a case for why we think something is good, like a compelling enough argument will result in a gavel bang and a judge declaring, “Correct! This is cool,” instead of our recursively enjoying the work because it brings us enjoyment.
Which brings us back to Devil Love’s Broken Things, which grabbed me just about the second I put it on. It’s sad vocals, mid-tempo grooves, and melodic guitar with a hint of rip, wrapped in an extra-crunchy shell of distortion. The songs are all solid and the album brings me back to the 90s, when you heard this type of band on the radio. The fact that Broken Things borrows from grunge and classic rock, as well as blues rock, made me feel guilty, like something familiar and comforting is less artistically valid than something cryptic and abrasive.
Lebowitz gave me the courage to bang my own gavel and decree this a fun album. “Gold Currency” starts with bluesy guitar (from Ken Rothman), with singer/guitarist Peter Buzzelle crooning sadly over an easy groove. “Soul Clinic Bible School (redux)” uses an insistent beat, plodding in a wonderful way, background vocals keeping things from getting too dark. And “Carelessly Comfort” is Stones-esque country rock, a scratchy guitar tone making sure the tune doesn’t read as too Western. And some subtle piano gives the song a refined finish.
Broken Things sounds like music many of us used to like, and still do, which is what makes the album such a great listen. The band doesn’t steal from anyone, but rather perfectly captures the energy of 90s alt-rock, from the noisy guitars to the indifferent vocals. It picks up a strand that mainstream rock dropped because that sound wasn’t considered trendy anymore, but not because the music wasn’t great. Because it was. And thanks to Devil Love, it still is.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Gold Currency
– Better Better
– Carelessly Comfort
– Soul Clinic Bible School (redux)
The Big Hit
– Soul Clinic Bible School (redux)