No Devotion


Written by: TL on 01/10/2015 15:48:38

The matching of former Thursday singer Geoff Rickly and the singer-less ex-Lostprophets was probably not one that many saw coming. Even if Thursday and Lostprophets were both staple bands in the post-hardcore world in their time, they belonged in different geographical scenes, and while Rickley has widely been held in high regard by the American alternative community, the former 'Prophets probably figured like persona non grata to many, as a result of their prior affiliation with their old singer, the now infamous, convicted sex offender Ian Watkins. Yet this union of castaways has somehow become a thing, now known as the band No Devotion, in which the members have overcome their different backgrounds and locations to present us with a debut album in the form of the recently released "Permanence".

Another thing few probably saw coming as well is the fact that "Permanence" does not sound much like either the energetic post-hardcore of Thursday (unless perhaps if you think exclusively of their swan song "No Devolución"), nor like the polished, pop-tinged radio rock of Lostprophets. Instead it sounds like the group has come together over a shared love for The Cure, as "Permanence" showcases the kind of spacious and heavily effect-drenched new wave where blooming ambiance and naive melodies careen into each other, while the untrained listener tries to figure out which sounds are guitar and which are keys and synthesizer. Other British bands come to mind for comparison, such as the depressive yet melodic Scots in The Twilight Sad, the more trippy psych/goths in The Horrors, as well as the expansive stadium-electro-rock of White Lies.

Across "Permanence", No Devotion, to their credit, establish a recognisable sound that figures as a mid-point between some of those references, where the strength lies primarily in the sound design, more so than in the songwriting. Because it just sounds huge most of the time, huge and a bit mysterious and artsy, and on several occasions you can sort of switch your attention up and down in the different reverberating layers, and notice to your satisfaction the delicious ring of one well-produced, ringing sound or the other. And it is not because the songwriting is bad per se. In fact, the once-'Prophets' experience with fitting things into seemingly catchy structures seems to have carried over even to this new style, as the songs still move ahead at a decent pace, routinely arriving at recognisable chorus sections in a timely manner.

The thing is that while a great deal of attention seems to have been paid to the orchestration of effect pedals and further electronic tricks, the song structures, although they are catchy in an obvious way, are also kept very rigid and predictable, which is felt especially on the album's somewhat mechanical rhythmic side. Again, White Lies lend themselves well as a comparison, as No Devotion's songs have a similar feeling of locking themselves on rails from the moment they begin, which subtracts some sense of wonder and energy from the listening experience. Furthermore, sticking with the comparison, Geoff Rickly is not Harry McVeigh, and his smaller voice and limited melodiousness lacks the fuller tone that you're used to hearing from a McVeigh, or from the singers in some of the other bands referenced above here. Things function when Rickly uses more of his shortened, chanted style - which is more reminiscent of his Thursday days - like he does on "Eyeshadow". Because this affords him some good contrast to the melodies he then does proceed to sing. On the contrary, on a song like the opener, "Break", his pained, extended sighs can make you a bit weary even within the span of just the one song.

Overall though, "Permanence" figures as an OK debut record, yet not a great one, less because of Rickly's singing being an unusual fit for this type of music, but more because it suffers from the same limitations as a White Lies record, without ever making up for it with equally sweeping refrains to lure you back despite it. It is an interesting listen for the grandeur of the sound design alone, especially on a song like the instrumental "Death Rattle", which makes an impression simply by breaking from the formula a bit, but as soon as you've gotten used to the style, the record otherwise gets to feeling a little too predictable and stiff in its movements. A curious start, though, for a curious band constellation.

Download: Eyeshadow, Death Rattle, Night Drive
For The Fans Of: White Lies, The Cure, The Twilight Sad, The Horrors

Release date 25.09.2015
Collect Records

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