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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Album Review: June DeVille - "Swan Songs of the Coyote"

Bands with numerous, diverse influences should normally be approached with caution. Many times they end up sounding like they're trying too hard, or at the very least those influences allow you to forget this is something unique and organic. On Swan Songs of the Coyote, June DeVille manage to beautifully boil down their heroes and blend them with their talents, adding the bark of punk to some bouncy and much more complex song structures. This is an album I should've taken more seriously.

June DeVille formed in 2007 in Lausanne, Switzerland, consisting of vocalist/bassist James War, guitarist Max Stauber, and drummer Thomas Target. The songs on their second true album point to every member working distinctly and independently, forming a cleaner sound than to which we've grown accustomed. Throughout this disc, War and his bass seem to keep this vehicle on the road while guitars dry-heave in the backseat and the drums pound on the roof with jazzed fists.

The Grand Desperate Race for Love boots the album with rock-a-billy licks and immediate, pounding drums. The distortion's left behind as all three band members' vocals layer high above punk-ish rhythm and fuzzy bass. This riff's gonna stick in your gray matter all week, and you'll be fine with that. You can't help but wonder if this is how cock rock might sound if the cocks were left out of it.

The bass ribbon throughout these thirteen tracks is loose and buoyant, somehow grooving well with a 1977 NYC tempo that I never thought I'd enjoy. The drums sound as though they're slapping each other in mutual disdain and admiration, and the fretwork amazingly keeps up with itself. The shreds cooperate with the rhythm, and the vocals blanket everything to make sure no one gets hurt. Rebecca's Evil Eye mimics a car-chase romp with just a hint of hill-rod breakdown, while Swords and Wines is frantic and packs more drum hits into four minutes than I thought possible.

I found myself detecting a whisper moving to a scream, all juxtaposing against incessantly jagged guitars. The influence of Pixies isn't overt and it isn't distracting, though Railway Flirt (Love in Lausanne) threw back my head in appreciation. These guys also get spooky and spacey (ah, psychedelic!), with Blues of the Powerful and Destroy Everything pairing spoken-word with floating tinsel guitars to the point of sounding like hanging Halloween decorations on Christmas.

Several of these tracks stood out and had me skipping back for a second listen. Jackals of Compassion is, lyrically, the best track on the album. Lines like "composing sad smiles on wax faces" and "eyes dulled by ancient lies" belong in Sylvia Plath's oven. When this song managed to remain slow and soft, I thought of how I once believed no band could sound like Slint. Elements of this song parallel Breadcrumb Trail, and June DeVille have succeeded admirably in shoving my own words into my throat.

Dilettante draws thoughts of a jangly outsider in a western town, twisting his neck looking for a saloon as he tries to avoid being harassed. Fuzz warms the listener and grows into the album's jam, employing a strong stoner riff as the drums pound, hum, and pound again. The haze steadies on Clouds, a gentle swarm of bees introducing screaming hyenas. Grass, Like Sapphic Hair could be a Black Label Society b-side, with a southern bayou rumble, lifting drums, and punctuated guitar pullback. I can't, for certain, say lyrics like "fire walk with me" had anything to do with David Lynch, but I'd love to think they do.

The album concludes with a series of three Forbidden Songs. The first is a hand clap sing-along with plenty of twang to unite local pub patrons. Forbidden Song II is instrumental with a low rumble, a bouncy dance jam that lasts under two minutes. Finally, Forbidden Song III is pure americana, complete with guitar lilt consistent with Petty's American Girl. The song is very 90's, very cool, very Ned's Atomic Dustbin meets Soul Asylum, as if their songs haven't met before (riiight!). A perfect end to an incredible album.

I'm embarrassed to say I'd nearly overlooked Swan Songs of the Coyote. Check out June DeVille's site and hear every track without paying a cent. Visit their facebook page, like them, and let them know some asshole from Heavy Planet is singing their praises.

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