DeVotchKa – 100 Lovers

January 01, 1970

(Anti-)

 

www.anti.com

 

The author and composer Paul Bowles once told an interviewer that for
all its bloom and beauty, in the end love was “no different than any other
psychosis.” Denver’s
DeVotchKa has put love in all its various shades – including that one — under
the microscope through five full-lengths, but never more compellingly and
concisely than on its latest. Lyricist Nick Urata writes unabashedly romantic
vignettes about the joys of falling in love and the despair of watching time
wear it down like water on sandstone, and his dramatic vocals – seducer’s croon
and spurned lover’s desperate plea – complement perfectly the band’s gypsy
flavored, high-passion pop.

 

Throughout 100 Lovers, Urata’s
narratives delve into the gray are of what’s real and what’s an illusion when
it comes to what the French call l’amor
fou —
what we Yanks refer to as that addictive bat-shit crazy love. 
“Who among you can resist,” Urata rhetorically asks on disc-opener “The
Alley,” joy and resignation summing up love’s aphrodisiac effect on our psyches.
He then appeals to reason – fruitlessly, you’d wager — “When it’s all too much
for you to take/Take a step back for heaven sake/It seems so foolish in this
light” over the song’s quavering strings, elegant piano and a marching snare
beat that echoes the inevitability of heading into final battle. Elsewhere he
champions the pheromone-highs that make falling in love such a potent elixir,
singing over the happy-go-lucky whistling, children’s choir and Theremin’s
sing-song on “Exhaustible,” “You and I look good together…you and I can conquer
distance/Space and time and mass resistance.”

 

Love’s dark side gets equal billing, of course. The inevitable cooling
of passions is no secret to the narrator of “The Common Good,” Urata conceding
defeat when he sings “If this is love/I’m gonna lose/There is no doubt/You’re
gonna chew me up and spit me out.” And on the track “100 Other Lovers,” the
narrator falls under the spell of a femme fatale and cedes free will to the
illusion that “you belong to me.” But even surrendering to her dishonest nature
is addictive because the words “come easily/And they sound so lovely/I guess it’s
just as easy/if you lie to me.”

 

Of course such narrative fare stretches back centuries, but DeVotchKa has
welcomed into its songwriting virtually any musical tradition where grand
romantic gestures are celebrated rather than repressed.  They’re as likely to build a melody around a
bouzouki or sousaphone as a guitar, and the music is a World Band radio of
influences: Romani, Greek, Slavic, Italian, French chanson and Spanish cancion traditions filtered through American punk and folk roots. That’s been the
formula before for DeVotchKa, including its epic heartrending title track from
2004’s breakthrough How It Ends,
featured in the Oscar-winning film Little
Miss Sunshine
. But 100 Lovers trumps the band’s previous efforts through absolute clarity of vision. The nine
songs (there are two short instrumental interludes, and a longer vocal-less
track closes the record) are wound tighter, the narratives more focused, the
exotic accents used more judiciously. In the end, though, putting your finger
on precisely why this is the band’s finest moment is as pointless as explaining
why love makes us do the crazy shit it does; sometimes it’s just enough to have
your heartstrings plucked, whatever the consequences.

 

DOWNLOAD: “The Common
Good” “Exhaustible” “All the Sand In All the Sea” BY JOHN SCHACHT

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