Fans of Manchester Orchestra are sure to enjoy the latest collaboration between Andy Hull and Kevin Devine. The band is called Bad Books and is comprised of Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra members, Andy Hull, Robert McDowell Chris Freeman, Jonathan Corley and Ben Homola. The self-titled album, which came out last November, is a model of everything a supergroup should be.
The “supergroup” phenomenon is by no means a contemporary development. In fact, the term was taken from the album “Super Sessions,” recorded by Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, and Stephen Stills in 1968. In past years, with the emergence of such groups as The New Pornographers and Monsters of Folk, the “supergroup” has seen an entirely new face.
Bad Books is unlike most supergroups in several aspects. The most noticeable being the cohesiveness of the music. Many supergroups function as mere expositions of the individual talents of their constituents. Bad Books demonstrates true chemistry. Kevin Devine’s idiosyncratic cadences seem to be designed for Andy Hull’s voice. And both happen to be quite prolific songwriters.
In my opinion, the best-written song (lyrically) on the album is “I Begged You Everything.” The sound is reminiscent of Conor Oberst both lyrically and musically. The inflections of Hull’s voice are intricate, beautiful and thought provoking.
The first song I heard was a track called “Holding Down the Laughter.” From the first few verses, I was immediately struck by the sincerity of the vocals. The music is both fluctuating and catchy, and is defined by repetition, distorted guitar, and elaborate drum rhythms.
“The Easy Mark & The Old Maid” is another example of great lyricism. The defining line of the song would have to be:
Eyes are fixed and my palms are spread
Dissonance floats my shipwrecked head
God sleeps in the Gaza strip
and man alone is left alone to live with it
I think this line is extremely relevant given the civil unrest we are seeing today in that particular region of the world.
In short, if you are new to the supergroup phenomenon or are a fan linguistically clever music, Bad Books would be a good band to look in to.