10 Track, LP (2007, Beggars Banquet/Remote Control)
Related: The Devastations.
With their second album Coal, The Devastations joined a tradition of talented Australian rock bands recording in Europe, but failed to break free from the associated mythology. In fact, the subject was something of a sore spot. “So, Berlin? Nick Cave?” was Conrad Standish’s pre-emptive salvo to a journalist from Mess+Noise at the start of an interview in 2005. It was a cheeky line, but also a telling one. Coal simply wasn’t good enough to distinguish itself from such a rich and already well-known story. And Standish knew it. No-one asks questions about grumpy old Nick Cave if you’ve just created a masterpiece.
Perhaps that’s why Yes, U, sounds so different to its predecessor. If the last album could be described as “rock noir”, then this time there’s less of the former and even more of the latter. It has a dark and incredibly sensual sound with more soul than any random score of records you’re likely to add together. The songs simply pulse with desire. “When we go to sleep at night/Curled up like question marks/I want you to marry me,” Standish sings to his lover on ‘Oh Me, Oh My’. “Let's turn off the lights/Let’s pretend we’re dead..."
The first climax is the pairing of Standish’s ‘Rosa’ – one of only two moments when the band unleash their instruments, complete with a tortured howl – with Tom Carlyon’s ‘The Pest’. On the latter, Carlyon recites junkie poetry over a sparse electronic track, heavily inspired by Suicide, and creates a feeling of impending violence that never materialises. “I’m so, um, interested in life,” his protagonist mutters, before asking someone if he can borrow money. After that, the band embarks on a series of dreamy, outer-space love songs punctuated by the thumping ‘Mistakes’. The quality barely dips for a second. Yes, U is one of the few records this year to be considered truly vital, and marks the moment The Devastations became their own band. A handful of superlatives couldn’t do it justice.
by Andrew Ramadge