Devotchka

How It Ends (Cicero)

There's a great but untrue story of pre-Clash Joe Strummer going into a bar and spotting Graham Parker. Strummer says he saw the Sex Pistols a week before. Asked what he thought of the band, Strummer replies, "Whole new thing, man."

Hearing Devotchka provides the same stunned sense of surprise. This Colorado foursome is fronted by a Ukrainian who reportedly escaped from a Mexican rehab facility (he sings in four languages) and features such unique instrumentation as bouzouki, tuba, bowed vides, glockenspiel, and tenor triangle. How It Ends is, of all things, gothic country and Western meets Eastern European. Cuts like "26 Temptations" and "We're Leaving" come across as a beautiful union of Marty Robbins and the Cure sitting around a gypsy campfire. With a voice equal parts Ian McCullough and Roy Orbison, Nick Urata literally wails over this lonely (and lovely) collection of downbeat folk songs. Producer Craig Schumacher worked with other desert dwellers like Giant Sand and Calexico, whom Devotchka slightly resembles but keeps a melodic distance from. Sometimes originality is either brushed off as novelty or discarded as unlistenable, but in the case of How It Ends, it's praise of the highest order.

 
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