The Mess Hall
10 Track, LP (2007, Ivy League)
Related: The Mess Hall.
For a while it seemed like The Mess Hall and Wolf & Cub might get into an ill-advised contest to see whose percussion was the thumping-est. Now wouldn’t that have been a sight? I can just imagine the cymbals flying and skins bursting. Both bands leaned on a bombshell of a beat to prop up their recent rock & roll albums Notes From a Ceiling and Vessels. Of course, any chance of that battle went out the window when Wolf & Cub replaced one of their drummers and rock-you-could-dance-to became, like, so 2005.
It’s always interesting to hear what a band does when the train they were on rolls out of town without them. To be fair, I quite liked The Mess Hall’s train, but it’s no secret that thump-heavy “new rock” has since fallen from grace. Unfortunately for fans of the genre, Devils Elbow won’t be bringing it back either. Jed Kurzel and Cec Condon still manage to make a bigger racket than any other duo in the country, but on this album – the band’s third, Condon’s second after replacing original drummer Anthony Johnson and the first released on the Ivy League label – they sound uninspired and perhaps a little confused.
Most of the tracks on Devils Elbow sound like a rehash of Notes From a Ceiling, without packing the same punch. The two exceptions are ‘Pulse’ and ‘Cookie’, where Kurzel and Condon try a different tack with excellent results. They’re almost an inverse of the pair’s usual style: the melodies are cut-back, minimal and uneasy, the vocals are hushed, and the massive explosion of guitar saved for the end rather than spent in the opening seconds. Hopefully on the next release they’ll follow that sound wherever it leads them.
by Andrew Ramadge