The Notwist | The Devil, You + Me
Most Likely To: defend the world from foreign fashion impresarios.
Electronics are like liquor. When used in moderation, when married to an appropriate situation, both can elevate proceedings into completely other realms than those indicated when either sober or acoustic. But, like alcohol again, a wade into an electronic pool can far too easily become a dive and before you know it your bloated piss-bucket of a corpse is being fished out of a Holiday Inn pool.
You see, what electronics and effects of that sort become to many bands are big pretty cloaks to hide behind. A blip here, a bloop there and all of a sudden you’re entirely alleviated from the burden of actual songwriting altogether. Most frustratingly, it’s often so poorly used that songs fail to resolve themselves and end up overstaying their welcome to the point of abrasion (I’m looking at you, Gibbard.)
This is especially relevant to a band like The Notwist and to an album like The Devil, You + Me. Now, anyone who’s been following those rascally Krauts knows that The Notwist started off as a satisfying if a bit conventional little indie band that could. Then the computers came and seriously put everything in danger of becoming royally fucked, royally fucked being something that The Devil, You + Me never becomes but terrifies me by presenting the prospect that in the future it very easily could.
It all really depends on which portions of this album The Notwist decide to capitalize on. What The Devil does so very right is that it uses electronics as mere decorations, laces and filigrees that serve to provide atmosphere and identity to songs like “Gloomy Planets” and “Gravity,” songs that are strong enough in their own right to stand bare and with only the basic instrumentation to propel them forward. Songs like these (including the excellent title track) are examples of The Notwist at their best. Everything is imparted with a chilling sort of quality that never forgets it’s own soul, like a glacier with a cabin nestled deep within, effectively pulling the listener along by an intelligently executed point/counterpoint between the band and the post-production.
With any luck, the aforementioned (which, thankfully, comprises the greater stylistic bulk of the album) is the most telling of The Notwist’s future plans. It is with disappointment that there is even any apprehension on my part, but the unfortunate truth is that one third of the album is a self-indulgent pap smear that makes exactly the same textbook mistakes I chose to first mention. “Where in This World” is a fine scapegoat for my uses here. Not only does the song fail to establish an identity for itself among it’s messy rhythms, but eventually becomes entirely lost in them. After all is said and done, it’s difficult to even determine any reason for a track like “Where in This World” to exist. It would be one thing if it was just another Plans-esque example of a good idea being digitized to death, but this seems to take it to unnecessary extremes, lacking for it’s own defense any sort of credible springboard for such a synth-disaster.
Generally, when The Notwist end up losing themselves it’s because they started off lost in the first place, nothing concrete to drape their binaries over. It’s a shame, really, because it’s moments like these that only serve to ruin an otherwise laudable effort.
If The Notwist use The Devil, You + Me as a course to plot the rest of their career on, let’s hope they steer closer to their roots and fundamentals. They clearly do these well and I’m sure will continue to improve the dysfunctional relationship between the basics and the blips as time goes on because if not, who’ll be left to compete against the likes of Rammstein and canned cheeseburgers? Karl Lagerfeld?
Please, nobody wants that.
Listen to “Gravity” by The Notwist below: