Devastations, a band of Australians living in Berlin, attempt the depth of the Dirty Three and Liars on their sophomore album, Coal—and end up sounding most like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The comparison’s been pointed out in the past, but despite the fact Devastations would prefer to be labeled “tropical goth”, there’s sometimes almost no discernible difference between the two groups. But Coal has received some praise, nominated for the inaugural Australian Music Prize last year—and it’s on the strength of some solid, if not overwhelming, musicianship. Complex time signatures give songs like “The Night I Couldn’t Stop Crying” a pulsing, shifting flow; on “Coal”, singer Conrad Standish sounds like Leonard Cohen. There’s a strong hint of classicism about the melodies and structure of songs like “Terrified” that are intensely attractive, this pop sensibility turned literary. Though the slow-burning guitar fuzz can become almost overwhelming, when they’re at their most tender, as on “Cormina”, the group finds a genuinely affecting shade of melancholy velvet. “Dance With Me” spirals off into a Tim Burton skeleton waltz, and the darkness is almost as murky as any Cave murder ballad.
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