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Album Review

Produced by 16 Horsepower's Bob Ferbache, DeVotchKa's debut, Supermelodrama, shows a band filled with vigor and paranoia, but with a much distilled and prominent vision. At their most dark and forceful, DeVotchKa sit somewhere between the nervous Radiohead and the most melodic of Talking Heads, due to vocalist Nick Urata's vocal likeness to Thom Yorke and David Byrne, but the band is much more than these influences. To mix it up, DeVotchKa mix regular references to European folk, hints of sunny pop melodies, and angular post-punk ruminations via a mesh of clarinet, accordion, sousaphone, trumpet, percussion, and violin falling over the staggering peaks of the traditional rock & roll bed of guitar, bass, and drums. "Danglin' Feet" leads the album off with the opening bars joyously capturing a vibe similar to the irresistible charm of Joe Meek's classic "Telstar," but the likeness ends when Urata's fevered vocals take over and terrorize the listener through the plans of a suicide. It is followed by the furious and engaging theme song for the band, an intoxicating, Slavic gypsy-sounding melody reaching similar territory in cadence and vitality as the amazing Taraf de Haïdouks often do, and this is what the band is all about. In the first five minutes of Supermelodrama, DeVotchKa travel around the globe without knowledge of or care for the boundaries that have separated popular cultures for centuries, and furthermore do it without sounding choppy or forced. This is the same approach George Harrison took when molding the sitar into John Lennon's "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and fills a very interesting distinction of rock which, surprisingly, has been visited by very few since. At the roots of the clever arrangements, it is nice to find DeVotchKa's songwriting is just as realized and appealing as their sound, and moreover is surprisingly accessible which makes the fact that Supermelodrama is the group's debut all the more impressive.


Formed: 1997 in Denver, CO

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Gypsy-tinged quartet DeVotchKa were formed in Denver, CO by multi-instrumentalists Nick Urata (vocals, guitar, trumpet), Tom Hagerman (violin, accordion), Jeanie Schroder (sousaphone, bass), and percussionist Shawn King. Supporting musicians rotated in and out of the eclectic group's lineup, contributing such diverse sounds as strings and bazoukis. While some described DeVotchKa's sound as polka-rock or circus music, the band was actually a cross-pollination of numerous influences, including...
Full bio
Supermelodrama, DeVotchKa
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