What Makes a Good Band?

The Devics

Thesis and antithesis make a band listenable for me. Otherwise, I get bored easily, especially in clubs, where the band’s friends and family members are sitting next to you. You’re obliged to act enthusiastic. Tonight, girlfriend and art doctor, T.L. Reid, dragged me to Tangiers restaurant to see the Devics, a moody L.A. cabaret/art band that has toured Europe. Their stock-in-trade, as I remembered them from a couple of years ago, was that the singer sang waltzes through a megaphone to a standup bass/piano/drums dirge. We sat at the table with the mother of the guitarist/pianist who writes a lot of the stuff. She said her son just did the soundtrack for a Sofia Coppola film. The band started out with a slow-tempo thing full of air and mindless piano arpeggios. Everyone was playing in unison, it seemed, although the guitarist actually played chords, and the lead singer, a woman who had no energy for interesting between-song banter, played…the same chords. The bass player played the root notes, again underpinning the same chords. No one provided any musical or personality counterpoint. Only their last two songs, during which the megaphone was employed, were unique and striking, and they were older. One number did sound like a Blonde Redhead cover, and it was listenable, but most of the songs defined monotony. Devics are serious Europhiles whose jumping-off point is cabaret, Brecht-Weill, and the art school Europeanism and KCRW cool sultriness that New York’s Elysian Fields promulgates. What they really need is to allow the antithesis of their monodies to be heard, and to intertwine it and spread out the lines into harmonically rich countermelodies. Sure, sometimes you can get away with having only one thing going on in your music—but it should be a good thing.

Too many bands are hailed as interesting because their template or category is presumed to be interesting. Just because you do the kind of music the Devics do doesn’t mean you’re automatically good. I would rather hear grindcore or gansta rap—genres I’m not really into—as long as thesis/antithesis is in the music.

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Posted at 5am on 07/20/2005 | comments are closed Filed Under: Daily

a weblog and projects site by John Dentino

"The sleep of reason
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