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ON DISC - December 26, 2001

Murder City Devils

Early this fall, the world of whiskey-guzzling, chain-smoking, balls-to-the-wall rock and roll suffered a serious blow. No, I’m not referring to the travesty that was the latest Iggy Pop album, but to the break-up of the Murder City Devils. It truly is a tragedy — not only were the Devils a serious contender for the best live show around, but a refreshing antidote to outdated punk posturing, formulaic hardcore and self-consciously arty post-punk. Fortunately, before the breakup the Devils left the world their swansong, “Thelma,” a six-song EP that showcased the band in top form. “That’s What You Get” kicks off the album, beginning with retro organs and slinky guitar riffs ripped straight from the theme song to “The Munsters.” However, once vocalist Spencer Moody injects his trademark boozy scream into the mix, the song moves into decidedly unique territory. The opener demonstrates the abrasiveness, manic energy and cryptic lyrics that have always garnered the band frequent comparisons to At The Drive-In.

But while At The Drive-In would begin every show with a sermon directing concert-goers not to mosh, one gets the feeling that the Murder City Devils would not only encourage but demand that audience members beat one another senseless, before torching the building. It’s exactly that primitive desire to kill and pillage like a Viking berserker that they tap on the out-of-control “Bear Away,” the more traditional hardcore of “One Vision of May,” and the aforementioned opener. The woozy “Midnight service at the Mütter Museum” shows the band slowing things down, but still maintaining a downright menacing intensity with a slowly building, primal drum beat. The band showcases a true evolution, however, with the mind-bogglingly weird “364 Days.” The song is a fairly straightforward acoustic ballad with string accompaniment (strange enough fare for the Devils to begin with,) juxtaposed with the same tuneless screaming as the other tracks, and lyrics that are ostensibly about … Santa Claus. The track, much like the band, is creepy, confusing, and not quite like anything heard before. And that’s the reason that the Murder City Devils will be sorely missed.
— Druu Schendel






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