A few months back i went to see The
Rosebuds on tour, playing their latest synthpop/disco record. They were great, but the band which started off the show was also rather impressive. Beat the Devil played their hearts out, and so afterwards i picked up this EP. It rules.
Beat the Devil are a three-piece act from Brooklyn that features Ms. Shilpa Ray (a petite Indian girl with a strong set of lungs) on vocals and harmonium, Mr. Mishka Shubaly thumping away at the bass, and one Mitchell King on drums. That's it -- no guitar, which is really weird in the world of Indie Rock -- so weird it's almost heresy. But they do it, and they manage to pull it off.
Their sound is loud, raucous, and almost bluesy. At times (especially the first track on this CD) they remind me ever so slightly of The Doors and their bluesy drunk swagger on Roadhouse Blues. At others ... well, they strike out into new territory, away from the well-played tropes of contemporary indie rock and into a new space all their own.
The drumming is a dull thudding, tinny and slightly flat, almost exactly like the drum sound that Andrea Caturegli played on the
first Stratford 4 record. The bass moves along at a frightening pace -- like Peter Hook if he actually played bass cording, instead of the high-string work he is famous for. And Ms. Ray -- wow. Her voice is so strong and loud that at times she overpowers the recording gear. That's right, at certain times on a few songs, if you listen closely there is a crackle of distortion that appears when she is really howling. When is the last time you heard someone out sing their recording gear? Impressive. Add to that a faint harmonium drone in the background, and you have some interesting listening.
Their songs are really catchy too. In particular i recommend Shine in Exile, the second song on the EP and also available on their MySpace page. It starts with the harmonium droning, while Ray sings lightly. Then with a turn of the verse the drums and bass kick in and she howls the words. The pacing of this song is great -- it moves along at a droning, high-hat tapping pace that makes me want to tap my feet and scream along. Really -- i can't stop listening to this tune. It's one of my favorites in a long time.
There are 4 other songs on the EP, and none of them are weak. Raging Bull Blues is a loud song -- Ray really belts it out here. Idiot's Guide features a slinking beat that is part jazz and part honky-tonk. On the whole, this EP is some great stuff.
The only fault I can find with this release is in the rather primitive recording. This disc has the lo-fi charm of a series of demos. Still, the songwriting and performance shines through the harshness of the recording, and since this is a young band just starting out, it can be easily forgiven.
I am impressed, very impressed. This group has potential, and i am curious to see where they will go. Experiencing things like this are why i show up early at concerts to see opening acts. Sometimes you get crap, but every once in a while you get something like Beat the Devil, a young band trying something new, doing it well, and on their way up. Years from now i'll be able to say, "Yeah, i saw them open for The Rosebuds in 2007." Catch them now, if you can.