I have always been a fan of both garage punk rock and duos in rock and roll, so, upon seeing Naples, Italy’s power pair, The Devils new album, the aptly named Let The World Burn Down in the promo pool, my curiosity was quipped. As has been covered well in the hallowed pages of The Sleeping Shaman, Italy’s rock and roll underground is teeming with all sorts of fuzz wielders and riff peddlers, and The Devils are certainly no exception.
From the jump, everything about this band, Erika Switchbalde on drums/vocals (singing drummers always blow my mind) and Gianni Blacula on guitar/vocals just oozes rock and roll swagger. From the bands name, taken from Ken Russell’s 1971 cult flick, to their appearance, videos, and overall presentation, there’s a very specific rock and roll aesthetic, and this is all before we even get to the music.
Let The World Burn Down awakens with the album’s first single, the slow-burn, garage-fuzz of Divine Is The Illusion, and I’m instantly a fan as the rolling, laid back drumming and the sultry, yet commanding vocals of Switchblade are counterbalanced by Blacula’s strumming. The build continues before dropping into an infectious, fuzzy riff, crash and bash chorus. There are elements of garage rock, but heavier, like early QOTSA, but more thumping and with additional swagger.
Witness exactly what I’m talking about with the impossibly catchy, and monstrous garage rock riffage of Killer’s Kiss. This track is like a super-fuzzy and heavy stomping take on classic White Stripes, but mixed with the aforementioned QOTSA rock swagger. Switchblade’s vocals are perfect for this music as she’s able to get melodic with her ‘oohhs’ and ‘aaahhs’ but is perfectly capable of belting it out when need the music calls for it. I’m two tracks in and I’m already hooked on this band.
Next, we get the fuzzed-up garage swing of Mr. Hot Stuff which has the energy of some of the bands heard on the Swami Records label, reminding me of a heavier version of the late, great Dan Sartain’s take on early sixties garage rock. Big City Lights is a cover from Cleo Randle circa 1966, and is a mid-album, catchy stomper, complete with an earworm chorus as Switchblade, again, proceeds to sing her ass off. The second single and album highlight is the fuzzy, bluesy, swing of Till Life Do Us Part.
Let The World Burn Down was a fucking blast and gave me all sorts of vibes, including the let-it-fly rock and roll attitude of the ‘90s garage punk bands I obsessed with…
This track is part old-time rock and roll ballad and part garage rock fuzz-fest, and possibly my favorite track on the album. The quasi melancholic vocals running parallel with the fuzz give the song a sorrowful feel, as if the title didn’t give a hint what the emotions might evoke. However, lest one thinks The Devils have gone soft they proceed to rip the listener a new asshole with the distorted, fuzzed-up rager that is the appropriately named Roar ll, which of course is perfectly sequenced following the rock and roll melancholy of Till Life Do,Us Part.
We start to hit the home stretch with another garage punk rock ripper Shake ‘Em as Blacula steps up to the mic for the majority of the track that reminds me of a fuzzed out, punked-up version of ‘90s garage/blues legends The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. We get another cover with Teddy Boy Boogie by Crazy Cavan ‘n’ the Rhythm Rockers from 1975 but performed as Teddy Girl Boogie, which The Devils turn into an impossibly catchy garage rock stomp, as once again both musicians shine from start to finish, while the penultimate The Last Rebel is a slow grind, wall of distortion, bashing, garage rock swinger.
The album closes with the rumbling, fuzzed-out groove of Horror And Desire. The duo takes their time here, and by when they really lock in, if the listener isn’t bobbing their head to the groove, there’s something wrong with their hearing. Additionally, both musicians take the mic sounding killer together. We get a guest appearance from Alain Johannes, the famed California rocker, who’s worked with many musicians, including QOTSA and Mark Lanegan, as well as The Devils themselves, who, provides a sleazy, dirty, rock-as-fuck solo at the midway point. There are some stoner and desert rock vibes here, but again, more of a thumping, heavier, early QOTSA vibe, or Brant Bjork-style when he locks into one of his famous riff grooves.
Let The World Burn Down was a fucking blast and gave me all sorts of vibes, including the let-it-fly rock and roll attitude of the ‘90s garage punk bands I obsessed with during that era. As well there are some early ‘60s garage spirit that runs parallel with the heavier, fuzzier attack of Blacula. He seems to have found a nice balance between garage fuzz and early rock and roll energy. Additionally, Switchblade completely owns her drum performance, and her vocals are stellar throughout the record.
This is a real rock and roll album from start to finish that proffers so much of the essence of early rock, but coupled with a fuzzed up wallop. Man, the Italians are not fucking around with their rock and roll. It’s very early, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Let The World Burn Down somewhere on my year end list.
Scribed by: Martin Williams