The Devil Makes Three: Stomp and Smash

Here's a live album that actually succeeds at what it sets out to do. It captures the energy of the band and a rowdy crowd and makes it sound like a show from The Devil Makes Three is an awesome thing to experience.

The Devil Makes Three

Stomp and Smash

Label: Milan
US Release Date: 2011-10-24
UK Release Date: Import

The Devil Makes Three has been around for almost a decade now, and they've developed a grassroots following with their brand of down-home Americana. Stomp and Smash is their second live release, and it draws from all three of the band's studio albums yet throws in a pair of new songs. This is one of those occasional live albums that actually succeeds in capturing the energy of a band in concert. Recorded over two nights in front of a rowdy crowd in Petaluma, California, Stomp and Smash finds the Devil Makes Three clearly enjoying themselves and playing with intensity. The recording by Kark Derfler is crisp and clear, putting Pete Bernhard's vocals out front but letting all the instruments be heard.

There's a bluesy, boozy quality to the Devil Makes Three's music that pretty much guarantees a strong audience response, and that comes through on Stomp and Smash through a low buzz of crowd noise that runs through the whole disc. For many bands, the cheering, hoots, and hollers might be a distraction on a live album, but in this case it fits perfectly. Since this is my first experience with the band, I can't comment on the tracklisting in terms of what didn't make the cut, but what is here is very good. "For Good Again" is a strong opener, as Bernhard tells the tale of how he ended up in the band. Lyrics about the drinking and drugs of small town life could come from any alt-country or Springsteen-influenced indie-rock band, but Bernhard puts his own distinctive stamp on the tale. You don't expect a country stomper to include lines like "Our drummer couldn't figure out whether he was straight or he was gay," and "You'll never understand the things my friend Aaron put us through / He had this Powerpoint presentation about this girl he wanted to do." Bernhard's willingness to be unconventional with his lyrics also pays off in the new song "They Call That Religion," which directly takes on corrupt religious figures including Ted Haggard and L. Ron Hubbard. The chorus, "They call that religion / But you know he's going to Hell when he dies" is both blunt and hilarious.

While the trio sometimes bucks string band conventions, one they embrace is the lack of a drummer. Much of their material is plenty percussive, with bassist Lucia Turino on the downbeats and Bernhard's guitar on the upbeats. This leaves Cooper McBean's banjo or guitar to handle a song's main riffs and Bernhard's vocals to fill in the melody, a task which both men handle adeptly. Fiddler Andy Lentz is also on hand for much of Stomp and Smash, and he adds a lot of color to the jig-like "Black Irish" and the jaunty "Do Wrong Right". His solos on slower tracks like fan favorite "Old Number Seven" and the creepy "Graveyard" made me wonder if the band shouldn't consider hiring him as a full-time member. Since Lentz already has gigs in at least three other bands, that probably won't be happening.

A lot of bands say things like, "Our studio albums don't really do us justice. You need to come see us live to get it." At this point it's probably safe to consider it a cliché. And yes, Bernhard is guilty of this, too, telling No Depression, "The idea came together when we played a show in Nashville awhile back and a friend told us that our records didn't capture the energy of the live show, and we all agreed." I haven't heard the band's studio albums, but Stomp and Smash definitely captures a compelling energy that a lot of live recordings are missing. It makes me want to go see them play live, which, I think, is exactly the point.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.