After 50 minutes, the dark, angst-ridden tone of much of Yes, U is a bit difficult to...
Jon Lusk 2007
Melbourne is Australia’s least sunny city (okay, forget Tasmania’s Hobart, we’re talking mainland Australia), and it was where this moody three-piece formed in 2002. Perhaps they found the climate a little too cheery, as they relocated to Berlin some time afterwards, and have since divided their time between there and London, slowly building up a small cult following.
Yes, U is their third album and finds their personnel boosted by ‘special guest’ Nigel Yang on keyboards, with additional synthesizer and violin by Andrea Lee, who now seems to have effectively become a member, since she joins them when they play live. Her most notable contribution is an icy retro synth tone on the likes of “The Pest”, which is strongly reminiscent of Martin Rev’s early work with Suicide.
The band’s main and most distinctive singer is Conrad Standish, whose lugubrious, whispered croon variously suggests Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples, Nick Cave and Jarvis Cocker in his more reflective moments. Standish is best heard emerging from the dreamily pulsing electronic shimmer of “Oh Me, Oh My”, which provides one of the few optimistic moments in lyrical terms (‘You brought me back to life’). Another is Tom Carlyon’s “The Face Of Love”, with its acoustic piano and guitar, and waltzing “sha-la-la-la” chorus, which sounds like an out-take from Cave’s The Boatman’s Call, or perhaps Coal, the group’s more pastoral, piano-dominated sophomore effort. The other most memorable numbers are “Rosa”, with its pounding drums and suspenseful tempos changes, and the trickling keyboard riff decorating “An Avalanche Of Stars”, which strongly suggests a James Bond theme tune.
Slow tempos I can do and so can they, but after 50 minutes, the dark, angst-ridden tone of much of Yes, U is a bit difficult to take seriously – in particular the overcooked melodrama of “The Saddest Sound”. Still, with a name like Devastations, it would probably be churlish to ask them to lighten up.