Released on October 26, 2006
LISTEN TO "SEX AND MAYHEM" OFF COAL
Mojo by Manish Agarwal: Sharply dressed Aussies who've relocated to Berlin and favour grown-up, vaguely gothic melodrama. The Devastations have enjoyed their share of Bad Seeds comparisons. Still, originality aside, this is a fine set of songs. Conrad Standish's lovelorn croon is more Jarvis Cocker than Nick cave - see Pulpy openeer "Sex & Mayhem" - while the music's faded lounge feel often recalls erstwhile tourmates The Tindersticks. "The Night I Couldn't Stop Crying" underscores its premise with an electrifying melange of guitar and violin; rollicking single "Take You Home" finds a bittersweet humour in barfly lust ("I'm sorry for the things I have not done to you tonight"). The potential hit is "A Man of Fortune," a string-swept duet with Kiwi chanteuse Bic Runga.
Uncut by Chris Roberts: A trio whose 2003 debut was plugged by Karen O as "best thing all year," Devastations fill their second with tales of lonely, dark nights good enough to send fans of the National and Tindersticks reaching gleefully for the bourbon and grandpa's revolver. Although geography and studio links with Einsturzende's Alex Hacke flag up the Cave influence, their own voice - that of lustful, dissatisfied men - colours the string-drenched rock of "Sex & Mayhem" and the thunderous "Take You Home." For added melancholy, the National's Padma Newsome brings his violin while Bic Runga furnishes "A Man of Fortune" with spectral elan.
Pitchforkmedia.com by Brian Howe (November 15, 2006): On paper, it's easy to mistake Devastations for an emo band. While their name sidesteps modern emo's penchant for cognominal unwieldiness, it has an aspect of glorious emotional ruin, and song titles like "The Night I Couldn't Stop Crying", "I Don't Want to Lose You Tonight", and "What's a Place Like That Doing in a Girl Like You" do little to ameliorate that impression. But you aren't likely to find these Berlin-based, Australian expats playing the Bamboozle Festival anytime soon.
Before emo locked up emotion in a tender yet unbreakable full-nelson, there was goth - both include eyeliner and melodrama, but they handle the latter with very different emphases. Emo approaches emotional trauma without much regard for subtlety, while goth - at least goth-influenced rock of the Nick Cave/Black Heart Procession variety that Devastations favors - is more concerned with sadness's introverted, resigned qualities, and undercuts its self-pity with a canny cynicism that makes the music more palatable to adults. As such, while Devastations' sophomore album, Coal, is undeniably melancholy, the slow-burning arrangements keep histrionics at bay. Devastations always privilege the song above catharsis, and singer Conrad Standish peppers his lovelorn lyrics with sinister noir: "Lord send me an angel; I'll send her to you," he threatens in a choking falsetto amid the seething piano and nauseously reverbed guitars of "What's a Place Like This Doing in a Girl Like You".
Any discussion of Devastations has to start with Standish's voice and his dark charisma. Nick Cave is so iconic that some singers seem to think that aping his tics is a shortcut to good songwriting. While Standish borrows many of Cave's inflections and images ("My mother was a whore," he deadpans on the title track's trembling piano ballad), he understands that Cave's theatrics wouldn't have gotten him anywhere without solid songwriting to back them up, and Coal, like Spielerfrau's likeminded The Sad Part from earlier this year, is packed from end to end with striking, capable arrangements. The guitar-driven "The Night I Couldn't Stop Crying" builds and breaks in dark, crashing waves; Standish emphasizes the dynamic shifts by dropping his baritone to a terse croak. He duets winningly with Bic Runga on "Man of Fortune", singing with a prayerful uplift that belies the music's funeral strings, and he rides the galloping chords of "Take You Home" toward a screaming crescendo. Always dark, never a caricature, Coal is consistently engaging, and marks Devastations as the emo-band-for-adults that people have tried to make Death Cab for Cutie out to be. Rating: 7.5/10