Review Summary: In my mirror I see you, in my mirror I see you, in my mirror I see movement...
Brash, colorful, doomed but expressive—this is Kevin Devine and The Goddamn Band’s most focused project period. And here we have it, excited supporters are at last seeing the return on their investment in the form of Bubblegum and Bulldozer (though only dealing with the former here). Born of the unique success of Kevin Devine’s Kick-Starter project, the fans have gotten what they demanded; and this album screams confidence. Bubblegum is fun, and it’s bitter-dark yet it’s resilient and hopeful. It’s heartfelt and political, with pop-punk engrained in its soul.
The album artwork in particular evokes the molting of an ideal; an American relic on a blank white wall and it’s burning up right in front of us. In the charred division through Washington’s head there’s a revolting beauty, and I’m sitting here thinking the painting looks better off for it. It just makes sense now—the old man isn’t smiling anymore and the blank slate behind him is coming clearer into view.
Yet for the dark prospects tackled in this album, it’s still remarkably hopeful at the same time. ‘Nobel Prize’ wastes no time in demonstrating an invigorated spirit in Devine, and the attitude coasts with ease through the first four tracks. The influence is 80’s and 90’s punk galore; Sonic Youth meets The Pixies, diving into Nirvana and surfacing again in 2003. Sonic Youth is prevalent in the distortion-heavy latter half, with The Pixies littered across ‘Private First Class’ and beyond. It’s all brought together under the careful ear of Brand New’s Jesse Lacey; a never jarring or out of place element. The roller coaster of influences sweep by with ease and make for a nostalgic and often heart-jerking experience.
Yes, fans of the alternative sphere have reason to rejoice in Lacey’s influence. While never overpowering in his presence, Jesse teases a confidence out of Kevin letting him really bring the band into the mix. While the vocals are loud, they find comfort in the even louder instrumentation, letting the whole group truly come into their own. The lyrics this time around adapt much better with the complementing sound, often covering politically complex themes in the verses while opting for simpler hard-hitting chorus lines. It makes for some compellingly deep material; classic love and loss amidst the backdrop of a modern ideological failure. I’m not sure if the gum’s just lost its flavor or if the whole bubble we’ve been blowing’s popped in our face. It sounds weary, but rest assured it’s delivered intelligently and with confidence.
The latter half of the effort delves successfully into the most experimental we’ve heard Devine and his cohorts venture. He connects the second half of the album in a combusting mess that dismantles itself as it rises. The washed out bleeding-twenties ‘Redbird’ starts out at a ‘Something in the Way’ kind of bottom but ‘I Don’t Care About Your Band’ strips off all that weight. It ditches being smart or angry and the honest core comes through, casting images of ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’ in the background.
There hasn’t been an album that sounds like this in ten years and it’s an infectious ride I recommend to everyone. The huge success of this album is sure to please supporters and draw in new fans without a doubt; and to think that this is only one of two simultaneous releases is absolutely remarkable. I’m simply blown away by this album.
Come for the sound, stay for the lyrics. Bubblegum is too in-your-face and downright good to be ignored.