Review Summary: Admiringly strange, bizarrely catchy, and just plain fun.
That Handsome Devil don't *** around. That doesn't suggest they're deathly serious about their work, rather they're one of the most creative and ingenious groups in America. But there's a certain statement that Godforbid and company make about the world and all its perverse, twisted, and sick inhabitants. That Handsome Devil invoke Mr. Bungle comparisons, but genre-hopping Californians don't fit very well with these bleak yet hysterical Bostonians. A certain gonzo writer would also make listeners feel he would blast this band in Las Vegas, but That Handsome Devil's lyrics, particularly in songs like "Kiss The Cook", where Godforbid sings about neglected children and parents who shouldn't be, provide a more morose setting, countering Thompson's aesthetic.
That's not to say That Handsome Devil aren't full of energy and mirth, because damned if they don't do entertainment itself a gift. "Squares" has a astonishingly catchy chorus, played up by bandleader Jeremy Page's highly impressive skill in instruments diverse as the accordion and the glockenspiel. "Viva Discordia" is exactly what it sounds like, a frenzy of sounds presented with lyrics that only a mental asylum patient would deem sensible. On the other hand, That Handsome Devil don't shy away from depressing tracks such as "Reagan's Kids". The song tells a tale of how the children of the 80s were disillusioned and lacked ideals fitting of a great America, instead favoring avarice and ignorance as their calling card. Even stories of love are told on A City Dressed In Dynamite
, with "Treefood". Stunningly romantic from a band with such unusual overtones, "Treefood" describes the perfect, eternal love, and is sung surprisingly poignantly by Godforbid. The album has overwhelmingly memorable tracks from start to finish that leave the listener dizzied and wanting more.
Weren't it for Naoko Takamoto, the group's backup vocalist working for Guitar Hero and Rock Band creators Harmonix, I would never heard of this magnificently odd group. Their full-length debut is a sight to behold, covering almost every genre and doing it quite well, I might add. Not everyone can stomach the out of the ordinary styling of That Handsome Devil, but if you fancy a trip into the unknown, the unforeseen, and most of all, the unusual, A City Dressed In Dynamite
might be an album you'll enjoy immensely.