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The Devil, You + Me
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Six ans que l on attendait que le trio Allemand retrouve le chemin des studios après l'acclamé "Neon Golden" de 2002, chef d uvre intemporel et référence ultime de l électro pop. C'est enfin chose faite et de quelle manière ! Les frères Acher et Martin Gretschmann n'ont pas seulement mis à profit les années passées pour leurs aventures parallèles (Lali Puna, Console, 13 & God...), ils en ont surtout profité pour accoucher de ce disque qui postule déjà aux meilleures places dans les classements de l'année et qui sait, au titre de Classique...
Quelle agréable surprise que ce sixième album de The Notwist ! Si le groupe a délaissé depuis quelques années déjà le metal noisy de ses débuts, et si Neon Golden était une brillante démonstration de leur talent, The Devil, You + Me prouvera à leurs détracteurs que The Notwist est capable du meilleur.
Entre reproduire bêtement la recette magique de Neon Golden et changer totalement de direction de façon plus ou moins pertinente, The Notwist a choisi de rester sur la même voie, mais en changeant parfois de vitesse. Le résultat est un album intelligent, bien construit, d'une production impeccable, et, surtout, fort de la participation de l'Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra.
Dès le planant « Good Lies », il apparaît que ce choix était le bon. Certes, quelques morceaux ne sont pas franchement indispensables, mais des bijoux comme « Boneless » ou « Gravity » témoignent de l'émotion dont est capable le groupe allemand. Les textes sont toujours aussi poétiques, et bien souvent bouleversants. The Devil, You + Me confirme ainsi que la pop mélancolique sied à merveille à The Notwist.
Sophie Rosemont - Copyright 2014 Music Story
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This time out, The Notwist have created an album with a much lusher soundscape. The Devil, You + Me, features the guitar much more prominently than any of their albums released in the last decade. Where on Neon Golden, the band was content to hide it behind layers of electronics or mask it with countless effects, they now seem to welcome the sound, and often bring it to the front of their songs. The result is phenomenal, giving the album a much more natural, organic feel. This change also suits the lyrical content and mood of the album, as it is much darker than their past work has been. The band acknowledges this in recent interviews, saying that the darkness of the songs stems directly out of their personal struggles.
On "Gloomy Planets," one of the album's best songs, Markus seems to be questioning the reason why things happen, while simultaneously acknowledging that he'll probably never know ("Why is everything so locked up?" he ponders). The acoustic guitar is thick here, but it's blended perfectly with the band's signature electronic sound. The darkness arises once again on the album's title track, which also happens to be its best. Here Markus sings,"We know we're not the smartest/ in this place we don't have to be/ lights are out but anyhow/ this is what they see/ it's the devil/ its you and me." The sheer minimalism of the song is shocking at first, with only an acoustic guitar and vocals, but the band eventually adds in some stunning bells and simple, appropriate drums. Still, it never evolves (there's that word again), as one might expect, into a bombastic electronic track. And it's all the better because of it.
But The Devil, You + Me is far from all doom and gloom. Fans of Neon Golden will instantly fall in love with "Alphabet," a song that literally sounds like it could've been ripped right off of that album and placed here. Markus' simple lyrics and the breakbeat-esque drums are back in full force, and it all sounds quite fantastic. Album opener, "Good Lies" also has an upbeat, positive feel to it. A guitar-driven pop song, it has its ups and downs but ultimately satisfies with bouncy instrumentation and sing-along lyrics ("I remember good lies when/ we carried them home with us/ to our bedside tables and our coffee sets"). The band seems to be making a conscious effort to not do all the same things over again and to mix it up as much as possible. I can't really fault them for that, as The Notwist is all about introducing us to different experiences.
But as amazing as the experience is, there are still a few hiccups along the way. The album's first single, "Where In This World," for example, is quite a bore to listen to. Its sparse string instrumentation is more distracting than anything else, and Markus' vocal melody is about as uninteresting as it ever gets. Still worse, is the fact that the song lacks direction, and doesn't really seem to go anywhere. In much the same way, "Gravity," just sounds like an amalgam of poorly executed ideas. Whether it's the somewhat cheesy lyrics ("I see the planets spinning faster/ or is my body too slow?/ I don't know, I don't know") or the fact that the song gives of a "bad Radiohead" vibe, it just doesn't really work as well as you'd like it to. Markus' soft, raspy vocals seem entirely out of place with the dense, upbeat instrumentation, and I've found myself skipping this one far earlier than I thought I would.
In the end, however, The Devil, You + Me, is an incredibly moving and inspiring album. For as technically impressive as Neon Golden was, it's hard to deny the emptiness of many of its lyrics. The Devil, You + Me, focuses more on slowing the songs down and fleshing out the lyrical content, and as a result, the likelihood of a listener actually being affected by songs like "Sleep" or "Gone Gone Gone" is through the roof! Is it better than its predecessor? Of course not. But during its better moments, the album excels where Neon Golden could not - by combining deep, emotionally-driven songwriting with unparalleled musical technicality. It may not be their crowning achievement, but The Notwist has created an album that is able to stand on its own and continue the band's unfailing evolution. That works for me.
1. "Gloomy Planets"
2. "The Devil, You + Me"
4. "On Planet Off"
5. "Gone Gone Gone"
8 out of 10 Stars
I'm not sure Neon Golden is a better album than The Devil. Certainly the flawless track progression, the consistent "atmosphere" of the songs, and the inclusion of a few outstanding compositions (for me, "Pilot," "Off the Rails," and "Consequence") give it the edge.
But this latest album has other virtues. While it doesn't feel as of a piece, The Devil manages to exhibit more range. A song like "Alphabet, which has a grinding, table-saw guitar solo, wouldn't have worked on Neon Golden, but it fits here, right before "Gloomy Planets," a largely acoustic number and one of the album's best. "Where in This World" is almost cinematic in scope, while "Gone, Gone, Gone," the record's minimalist closer, sends the album (and listener) away quietly.
Markus Acher's lyrics have always seemed to me to be elusive--but that's OK. The space they inhabit, somewhere between understood and misheard, is perfectly congruent with the band's aesthetic. At the end of "Gravity," for example, I hear, "Bring in the savage/bring in the lout/and fill our house with all the holy astronauts/Bring in the trouble/that's where we live/up on the roof a prayer for love and disbelief." If that's right, the lyrics are a sort of plea that perfectly marry the song's spacy, dystopic outlook and Acher's soft delivery. If I'm wrong on the lyrics, who cares? Just as on Neon Golden, the absence of clarity is part of the beauty.
I was prepared for a solid follow-up from The Notwist, but this is better than that. It's possible, even, that the songcraft itself has improved on The Devil, since Acher relies less on endless repetitions (such as "Pick up the phone!" on the eponymous track)--however successfully employed on Neon Golden--and schizo blips, and instead more on nuts and bolts.
If there's any weakness, it's the first song. While "Good Lies" was intitally the standout track, over time its appeal has grown thinner as other songs ("Gloomy Planets," "Gravity," "Boneless," "Sleep") have worn in their welcome. The song would be a career highlight for more than a few indie bands, but it's too conventional for The Notwist. (And, for me, the line "Remember the good lies when ..." gets annoying, less for what's sung but how it's sung.)
All in all, a great album--4.5 out of 5.
Electronica is a beautiful thing, because it doesn't necessarily exclude itself to just computers. Look at Hot Chip, for example, they play drums and guitar and all that good stuff. And no album better represents the successful crossover of rock and electronica than Radiohead's 1997 masterpiece OK Computer. But the Notwist have taken an interesting turn with their album, which seems like a more detailed version of Thom Yorke's The Eraser.
What separates this indie electronic album from others is its level of sophistication. All the details are carefully placed, and none of it is for dancing. This is listening music, mood music, and thankfully good music. The Devil, You + Me is full of slow, scratchy beats, sounding like distortions in the final recording, like faults in the master tapes. It's glitchy and trippy, and that becomes apparent early on with "Where in the World," which moderates itself between the bare minimums and the ultimate limitations, being scarce and overflowing with sound at different points. At times it feels like the album is too detailed for its own good, as added layers become unneccessary or irksome. Acher doesn't have the best vocals, either, and his accent, although slight, does seep through too often to be ignored. They've done better, but The Devil, You + Me is still an interesting entry in intelligent electronica. (Where in the World, Your Alphabet, Gravity)
"The Devil, You + Me" (11 tracks, 44 min.) frankly blew my mind. From the opening chords of "Good Lies" (which reminded me of the Smashing Pumpkins' "1979" incidentally), the album brings a mesmerizing audio landscape that I have not been able to put down. In fact I have been listening to it non-stop. Musically, this reminds me a lot of Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", with a lot of underlying cutting away/yet layering distant sounds, but also of Death Cab for Cutie's "Narrow Stairs". Check out "Gloomy Planets", the chilling and urgent "Alphabet", with piercing electric guitar crashing into, the pensive yet doom-sensing title track. My favorite track is "On Planet Off", one of the more "rocking" tracks on here, it reminds me in some way of certain moments on Portishead's "Third" album of earlier this year. But this album is a mood piece, with so many underlying tones, just beautiful, and there are simply no weak tracks on this album, none.
What an amazing album. Even though I've only recently started listening to it (non-stop, I might add), it is sure to make my "best of 2008" albums list. I cannot wait to see this guys in concert, if they ever make to the US shores. Meanwhile, BUY THIS, you will not be disappointed.