Better the devil you know
If ‘Neon Golden‘ was The Notwist in a state of evolution, leaving their hardcore punk roots behind in favour of post-rock flavoured indie-pop and electronica, ‘You, The Devil + Me‘ is the sound of a band who have found their, er, sound. ‘You, The Devil + Me‘ may lack Neon Golden‘s shock factor at least for those who have followed The Notwist’s 20 year, albeit hardly prolific, recording life. It may also lack an anthem on the scale of that album’s ‘Pilot’, but ‘You, The Devil + Me‘ is a real grower, a layered and atmospheric slow-burner. Markus Archer’s German-accented English is very much the signature of the band’s sound, by no means a disadvantage but a singularity that makes them unmistakably The Notwist.
Post-rock is very much the principal theme, the electronics more decorative than propulsive, adding a layer of lushness to the autumnal, sometimes bleak mood. Indeed certain tracks (‘On Planet Off’) bear resemblance to the pastoral melancholy of Hood, while a little levity is afforded by the Postal Service-esque electro-acoutic balladry of ‘Gloomy Planets’ and the title track. Elsewhere (‘Good Lies’) lyrical and melodic refrains build over swelling New Order guitars, or on the most overtly electronic tracks (‘Where in the World’) abrasive textures mingle with baroque yet pro-tooled orchestration.
Like Portishead’s ‘Third‘ and Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago‘ – two other wintery records with UK springtime release dates – the arrival of ‘You, The Devil + Me‘ feels somewhat late (or early, depending on how you look at things), its world-weary ambience very much anachronistic. While this bleakness is impounded somewhat by the cover artwork, this is a not difficult record, there is nothing as funereal and oblique as their Anticon collaboration ‘13 + God‘. The Notwist have a canny knack for melody, and despite the apparent expansiveness of mood, the album clocks in at under 45 minutes – ideal for a generation of music listeners who, like me, liked an album to fit one side of a C90. Despite the raves from a committed fan-base, The Notwist may not be the most immediate band, but repeated listens really reward.