Perhaps it was a mere technical fault, or maybe a bad omen, but this debut album by Orange County natives Handsome Devil just would not work on my CD player when I first tried to review it. Whatever the reason, after switching equipment, it soon became clear that it wasn’t worth the effort anyway.
It also became clear that Jeremy Popoff is more suited to the role of guitarist and songwriter for the hugely successful post-punk band Lit than that of talent spotter and A&R guy, because if he signs any more bands quite as poor as this to his Dirty Martini label, then it won’t last very long at all.
Popoff has backed the band by calling them “real, honest, and about to inject a long needed shot in the arm to the current assembly line of safe, sterile, and one dimensional rock n roll.” But dumb lyrics, like “Eating Saki in Nagasaki / And watching hockey / In my jockeys / I’m a servant to technology / I’m a fuckin’ Samurai” in the utterly trite and totally misguided “Samurai”, have to be heard to be believed in order to make it clear that the band cannot be for real, and are definitely one dimensional. With songs like this, something tells me these guys aren’t going to be big in Japan.
OK, OK, the band are quite obviously aiming for the same teen territory as bands like Blink 182, but Handsome Devil fail where other bands of their ilk succeed because, for all Blink 182’s goofing around and juvenile image, at least songs like “All the Small Things” and “Rock Show” stick. The sad thing is, there aren’t enough good songs on Love and Kisses from the Underground to comprise an EP, let alone a full-length album.
Only the punchy, attitude-filled “Back Into Action” and the sassy, melodic “Everything” are worthwhile moments. The remainder of the album is filled with repetitive, dumb and distinctly average songs like “Sorry Charlie”, “Hard Living Clean” and the annoying “Tonight”, which make its 35 minutes duration seem like an absolute eternity.
The disc’s first single, “Makin’ Money”, is a tragic attempt to cash in on the recent rap-rock fad that has engulfed the rock scene, and again demonstrates some more sixth-grade standard lyrics, together with an ill-advised gang-chorus of “Ha Ha Ha”. Furthermore, how the band managed to rope Butch Walker of the sadly departed Marvelous 3 into singing backing vocals here is beyond comprehension.
The only reason to celebrate the release of Love and Kisses from the Underground is that if Handsome Devil has managed to get this far, then it surely means far superior unsigned bands in this genre, such as 40 Ft Ringo, will achieve the success they deserve in 2002. Well, their CD works on my stereo anyway, and, on this evidence, that’s not such a bad sign.