Review Summary: No Devo(lu)tion
16 years. Almost as long as I've been alive. Definitely as long as my memory stretches back. It's also how long it's been since a depressed, angry teenager first screamed out in that flat voice, toneless but so far from emotionless: “we heard Ian Curtis kill himself again”. Since that record a lot has changed for Geoff Rickly; he tends to steal Joy Division lyrics a lot less, he's become more confident, more clever, and more willing to tackle complex metaphors and topics head on. Two things haven't changed though – his shameless love and fascination of Ian Curtis plus peers in the early post-punk scene, and his complex lyrical relationship with real life tragedies, be it his own or those of his new band members.
One of the most striking comments he made in his track-by-track analysis of Permanence
was that he had finally learnt how to express himself directly, rather than hiding behind layers of metaphor and simile. Not only was this a surprising comment given the quality of his lyrical dexterity in Thursday – check out “Asleep in the Chapel” to see what I mean – it was also dead wrong. What he was doing was re-learning
. Re-discovering a little of the naive, gap-toothed kid who once screamed his lungs out on Full Collapse
and kicked off one of the most exciting musical forces of the 21st century in the process.
Rickly sounds more mature and self-assured than ever before. From his shaky, raw early days to the vicious social satire of United Nations to now and Permanence
seems to dip its finger into every pie. It runs the gamut of Rickly's repertoire, from clever dual gunning cliches (“Where's the silver lining in the black shadows of your eyes"”) to telling it how it is (“Why can't I be with you"”) to vivid, lucid imagery. You can easily write off the furious “Death Rattle” as the sound of “Lostprophets smashing all their old records” as Rickly puts it, but it also plays a role in the larger story of the album expressing complete righteous anger at the inability to communicate with a partner. The gorgeous “Night Drive” is the standout, using the well-worn night drive metaphor to simultaneously express the emotional and sexual frustration of a break-up while illustrating the dangers of chasing pleasures without realising how far away the chase is leading you. Plus, you know, night drives are awesome. It's ironic; No Devotion spend so much time hidden behind layers of dreamy, saturated haze and yet still feel so totally open.
We end on one last metaphor with the somber but hopeful “Grand Central”. Our protagonist stands at the train station of his memories (I wonder if they have a Maccas") contemplating whether to head into his future or stay stuck in the past. We never really arrive at the final decision, and in a conventional sense it's a cliffhanger, but it's also a perfect summation of the album as a whole. Run away from your tragedy or confront it head-on, but you'll never truly move on; it will always be a part of you, but it doesn't have to be all of what you are.