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The record is good enough – but it’ll take a hell of a push to change that.
Phil Udell, 11 Aug 2004
If anything has characterised the Irish music scene of the past few years, it’s been The Comeback. Most of the major players – The Frames, Bell X1, Damien Rice, Jerry Fish, Turn, even U2 – seem to have fought their way back from adversity to claim what is, in terms of recognition, rightfully theirs.
It works well for any artist who can do it, giving their audience an extra dimension to hang on to, a feeling of a righteous cause to champion.
The Devlins, one would suspect, would suggest that they have no need to come back because they never went away. Right from the off, they set their sights on a worldwide profile and to an extent they have succeeded in that aim. The result, however, is that where Ireland is concerned they’ve suffered from the out of sight, out of mind syndrome. The truth is that while others are propping up the bars of Dublin, The Devlins have been touring non-stop and providing music for films and TV shows such as Six Feet Under. It’s just that not many people know it.
No surprise then that Waves, their fourth album, comes out of the blocks with such confidence. ‘Everything Comes Around’ is a dramatic opener, a subtle, twisting bass exploding into the vivid technicolour of the chorus. It sets the agenda for the album perfectly. Recorded live, the band’s raw edges have been rounded off by Doves and Coldplay collaborator Danton Supple – and the end result is often mesmerising. ‘Sunrise’ follows and pushes the whole venture up a level. Many try to come up with the perfect summer song and fail miserably but the album’s lead single hits the spot perfectly, crucially without sounding like some American music pastiche. The guitars ring gloriously and Colin’s vocals are superb. ‘Careless Love’ continues the sunny vibes, this time at a more relaxed pace. An old fashioned Irish rock song – right down to the chiming U2 style guitars – it is beautifully effective.
Having built up such a momentum it’s a shame that Waves drifts a bit in its middle section. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the three tracks that follow – they sound nice but there’s a lack of bite, both musically and lyrically.
Fortunately, ‘Don’t Let It Break Your Heart’ puts things back on the right track before ‘Coming Alive’ really pulls out the stops. With a lazy, shuffling beat and soothing female voice providing the platform, Colin Devlin puts in his best vocal performance of the record, venturing effectively into white soul territory.
From there on in, the band are in fine form. ‘Headstrong’ turns up the guitars while the title track sees their most startling departure from the essential Devlins template, gentle electronic beats and acoustic guitars combining with an upbeat lyric to bring Waves to a close on an absolute high.
Is it the record to launch them into the big league, at least at home? The Devlins still tend to be defined by what they’re not – part of the Dublin clique, band of the people, that sort of thing – rather than by their position as respected musicians in the global scheme of things. The record is good enough – but it’ll take a hell of a push to change that. Let’s see if Rubyworks can carry it off.