A Mad & Faithful Telling

Devotchka is nothing if not contradictory – and they are much more than that. The Denver-based quartet is complex, quirky, and immensely entertaining. Their music is a unique amalgamation of old and new, urban and folk, cutting edge and traditional. They combine conventional rock instruments with bouzouki, accordion, sousaphone, theremin, violin, trumpet, and toy piano. Devotchka’s musical recipe stews up gypsy, mariachi, Slavic and Greek ingredients and serves them on a bed of indie-rock, progressive folk and punk influences.

Devotchka began building a fan-base as the accompanying band for the Burlesque artist Dita von Teese. They expanded that following with their soundtrack for Little Miss Sunshine, a film that featured a burlesque dance number performed by a pre-teen girl. Oddly enough, the term “Devotchka” comes from A Clockwork Orange and means young girl. With this background you might surmise that the band’s work could lean toward the raunchy. Think again.

A Mad & Faithful Telling is a wild and ravishing ride across cemented strip malls and dusty back roads, and is highlighted by witty social commentary, spiritual epiphanies and emotional upheavals. Opening with “Basso Profundo” the listener is greeted by an eerie chorus that builds into a frantic dance of revolutionary spirit. Singer/ songwriter Nick Urata leads his band of mad gypsies into battle against the lords of corporate greed chanting “They never have enough, they never have enough” and questioning them “Is this love that you are making or is it a deal?” The band next switches to mariachi-mode for “Along the Way” a sweeping horn-infused number. “The Clockwise Witness” looks inward as Urata sings “If you win the rat race/Then a rat is all you will be.” These sentiments are carried along on the sweep of strings and toy piano, making the message more bittersweet than cynical. “Head Honcho” is pure world-pop gold. “Comrade Z” is a fun instrumental that will have you marching around the Red Square of your mind.

My two favorites on this album are the extravagant and dreamy “Transliterator” and the gorgeous “Blessing In Disguise.” The latter with its interwoven ump-pah-pah sousaphone bass line and delicate plucked guitar interludes is a pop-waltz prayer – when was the last time you heard one of those? When it comes right down to it, you’re not likely to hear anything else this year that comes close to A Mad & Faithful Telling. Nick Urata, Jeanie Schroder, Shawn King and Thomas Hagerman have loosed the ties of their imaginations in creating this fascinating melting pot of polka-pop-punk. I applaud their triumph and encourage you to take a listen.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)