July 9, 2008

The Notwist - The Devil, You + Me (2008)

What do you say to one of the better indie rock meets electronica bands that completely fell off the planet? A simple “Where the hell have you been?! Jeez, Ryan Adams has already put out 34 albums since your last record!” would suffice. It’s been inexplicably long since 2002’s Neon Golden (one of my favorites that year), but The Notwist is back with The Devil, You + Me and now I know why they say patience is a virtue... by virtue of the fact that after listening you’ll realize the wait was worth it.

When a band has been around for 2 decades, expect reincarnations in their sound. These German rockers used to bust out heavy metal before they crossed over to the more indie-friendly side of the musical spectrum. In fact, their two most recent efforts (TDY+M and NG) are the only ones tinged with electronica. Much like Radiohead, their music is hard to classify. Is it... indie rock? Baroque pop? Electronica? Electro-rock? Singer-songwriter? Well the answer is… all of the above. This lovely album is an amalgam of gentle strumming, subtles bass lines, electronic blips that sprinkle over you like confetti, a couple of slow-to-climax songs that burst into full-on sound, and a few that erupt in tiny musical explosions of sound.

The first description of their songs that came to mind was: Red House Painters, on uppers. The vocals are plaintive but sweet, dark but eerily optimistic, muted but not muffled… and it's this contradictory style that makes lead singer Markus Acher so effective. It’s almost as if he took the earnestness of Mark Kozelek along with the profoundly simple vocals of Duncan Sheik, fused them, and made it his own. And the lyrics go perfectly with his voice: pensive and borderline dark, without being too depressing.

There are some great stand-out tracks. "Good Lies," is a fantastic opener that drags you in with its New Order-like ability to make you feel instantly nostalgic. It's the kind of song that stays with you... long after you hear it. Then there's the hauntingly beautiful "Where In This World," a song that's punctuated with perfectly-orchestrated blips and bleeps I'd love to use on the soundtrack of an unwritten horror film. While "Alphabet," is perhaps overly-ambitious in its electronica, "Gloomy Planets" makes up for it by being one of the album's best carefree sad songs. Another exciting track, "On Planet Off," is one of those not-your-average tribal songs that would be great for some kind of sacrificial ceremony in the Amazon. It definitely brings a little sexyback to tribal sacrifices, and everyone knows those are the best kind.

Final verdict:
TDY+M is a great follow-up to a great last release and is worth the few listens it’ll take to completely reel you in. Move over Sea Change, there’s a new album in town on the list of “Best Albums To Lay Around/Fall Asleep To.”


Amanda said...

I'll have to check this out. I've been a fan of the Red House Painters for a long time, but have often wished they'd pop some happy pills.

Mona said...

Well don't get toooo excited... this album is RHP-esque in the vocal sense, not the song-sense entirely. If you're new to The Notwist, I do suggest Neon Golden and then this one, just so you can get a better feel for the direction they've been going in. Totally let me know what you think!