An adrenaline fueled thrill ride.
Romancing doesn’t hesitate and immediately launches itself forward with inexplicable momentum. The fact that it maintains the momentum throughout its entirety is a seriously impressive feat. “Masochist” is the albums frenzied opener and it goes off like a million fireworks. This is music that begs to be listened to, to be danced to, and taken notice of. Devin’s influences aren’t all that unfamiliar; The White Stripes, New York Dolls, Iggy & The Stooges, the British Invasion bands, yet the complete packaging of these channeled through his vision comes out not only sounding entertaining but fresh. The songs from Romancing apparently scorched audiences at SXSW, where both the artist and the album picked up a heavy amount of press due to the incendiary performances. That these songs seem to have retained that fiery energy is a triumph.
“Masochist” is the perfect opening track. A lead-off single that doubles as an extremely impressive calling card, it manages to pull the listener in, set expectations, and set up the rest of Romancing perfectly. It’s full of jagged rhythms, bursts of high-energy powerpop, and blistering vocals. Expect to see it on several song of the year lists when 2012 closes up. Once it finishes and “Born to Cry” starts, there’s barely time to breathe, with the latter being an excellent spiky take on early powerpop with a touch of early emo (think The Promise Ring) that works wonderfully both on its own and within the context of the album.
“New Horrors” and “I Don’t Think I” reveal just how good Devin is at appropriating the lo-fi recording quality he utilizes to perfection on Romancing while simultaneously showcasing his raw talent as a songwriter and vocalist. In prior interviews, Devin’s mentioned that several songs on Romancing feature the exact same chord progression, and while that’s certainly not hard to imagine, it’s not particularly noticeable either as each of these songs has their own identity while still sounding very much like they’re all parts of the same set. “I’m Not A Fool” and “My Solitude” continue the records playful spirit by delving a little bit into classic soul and revamping it into something that sounds distinctly like Devin’s own work. There’s still a slight ‘80s punk-tinged edge to it that lends itself to the song remarkably well.
“Run” picks the pace up a little bit and is somewhat reminiscent of the best songs from We Are Scientists’ finest set, With Love and Squalor. After the impressive vocal that closes out “Run”, “Forever Is Only a Moment” transitions the record from a trot back to a gallop. If “Forever Is Only a Moment” doesn’t incite some sort of movement on whoever’s lucky enough to be listening to it, then it’s because they’re completely unable to. It’s yet another fun jaunt of dance-able punk-imbued powerpop. “I Died” is perhaps the best representation of how Devin can take a song that feels familiar and work it into something that feels entirely new. It’s a fantastic song filled with old composition tricks but they’re played to their greatest effect making it another strong song on 2012’s best debut so far.
“You’re Mine” is one of the records fiercest songs and also one of its best, possibly presenting the theory that Devin’s at his absolute best when he’s at his most unhinged. “Too Soon” acts as the perfect bridge between slow, mid, and fast tempo, demonstrating Devin’s prowess to adapt at the tip of a hat. It’s downright impressive and memorable for the twists and turns but by no means the best song on Romancing. “White Leather”, the albums longest and slowest song, may actually (surprisingly) have that honor. It’s very much in keeping with The Replacements best acoustic-laden, most melancholic songs. “Lets get trashed up on a Friday night, my baby’s all in white” seems like it could have been ghost-written by Westerberg himself.
“White Leather” brings Romancing to a seriously satisfying close, reminding the listener of both the past and the present simultaneously. While Romancing isn’t a perfect album, it’s a lot closer than anyone’s come recently on a debut. It’s not revolutionary, it’s not going to change the way we hear music, but it reminds us of why we listen to music to begin with and that’s quite an accomplishment. It helps make Romancing exciting and it gets the listener excited. At this point the future for Devin is wide open and, more than likely, he’ll be someone worth following.