Review Summary: An average album with some good lyrics. A few stand out moments but an awful lot of nothing.
Kevin Devine is a man with a simple angle. He is an American singer songwriter, straight up, no complications. There is no folksy element as with Bright Eyes, there is no country twang and there is no Dashboard Confessional style whining. All we have here is a young man and his guitar singing emotional and occasionally enjoyable acoustic pop numbers. Like so many of Long Island’s musicians the man cut his teeth in various Jawbreaker-esq hardcore/pop punk crossover bands before going solo in 2002. 2003’s “Make the Clocks Move” represents his second venture as a solo artist. The album achieved moderate success considering it came out on indie Triple Crown Records; however Devine recently received a notable career boost as the best friend/tour buddy of alternative rock act Brand New.
Going to back to the roots of Devine, it has become a recent trend within pop punk to release an acoustic EP and this album while obviously not one of those, has a similar vibe to both The Starting Line and The Early Novembers acoustic albums. In that the songs don’t especially feel like they were made for acoustic playing or that there being acoustic is a necessity of the style in which they were written. This does not detract from the album especially but results in a record which really fails to stand out from the thousands of other singer songwriters.
However that aside there is plenty here that warrants a listen and Devine can be a very solid songwriter and an even better lyricist. He is known for covering “Holland 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel at live shows and the influence of that seminal band is clear for all to hear. While direct musical comparisons would be unfair on Devine as he has absolutely nothing on Jeff Magnum, he certainly takes something from them. As with most albums of its kind “Make the Clocks Move” is a mix of both fast and slow numbers with the former generally being of a higher standard than the latter. “People Are So Fickle” showcases this well with a bouncy and infectious tune, which utilises a full band as opposed to the usual minimal instrumentation. Lyrically he has a bit of a teen angst approach, but the delivery and the play on words saves any shortcomings his themes may have. The song rolls along happily enough without ever quite offering up a challenge.
Following on from that we have “Marie” which is so cringe-worthy I struggle to make it through an entire listen. It drags on at a terribly slow pace and is actually unpleasant to listen to it is so bad. Such is the story of this album; what is good is very good and what is bad is very bad indeed. Opener “Ballgame” may be a little self indulgent lyrically but it is easily the best song on the album and would be a song I recommend to anyone interested in what Kevin Devine has to offer.
In conclusion this is respectable effort but has little to satisfy the non-casual listeners, a few stand out tracks aside it probably isn’t worth much of a listen. However if easy listening acoustic pop is your thing, then by all means give Kevin Devine a try.
People Are So Fickle