MAN, YOU SHOULD EXPLODE - Kill Devil Hills (Torn & Frayed)
Man, isn't this The Shit.

Coming out of the West (of Australia) with a headful of shadowy images and a sackful of equally dark songs, Kill Devil Hills up the ante in the intensity stakes by quite a few degrees on Album Number Three. Linkages to the Drones notwithstanding, these guys steer their own path that's slightly less abrasive but every bit as tightly-strung.

Of course KDH take their cues from country rock, but it's a starting place and not an endpoint. There's a bunch of blues and swamp-punk in the mix and god knows what else, and it's all rendered in a way that shows these guys really have a good grasp on the all-too neglected concept of dynamics. You know that light 'n' shade stuff?

"Man, You Should Explode" is an album of bipolar extremes that a course of high-dose anti-psychotics couldn't corral. There's the fuzz-topped explosion of "Cockfighter" and the haunting piano (and little else) balladry of the swelling "Word From Batman To Robin" (where I'm taking they lyrics literally but you may differ.) The strutting get-me-out-of-here rock of "Siam" sits in stark contrast to the knife-edge of "Cool Desire", where violin coils itself around languid guitar to hypnotic effect.

Extremities to one side, the other beauty of KDH is in the way members shuffle between organ, guitar, woodwind instruments and strings. Brendon Humphries is so good a vocalist it's scary but the sum of their parts make KDH vital listening.

Despite all this, KDH never overplay their considerable hand. When they crank up a song like "When The Wolf Comes" it's not overblown, it's just right. "Rosalie" has slide guitar so sharp you could slice off a limb if you get too close, but if you want a quiet place to disappear when the album's nearly over and the tumult's subsided, "Lucy-On-All-Fours" provides it.

"Man, You Should Explode"is whimsy, urgency, despair and intensity wrapped up in one ball. One of the best Oz albums of 2009 for sure. The only question is when will the rest of the mainstream world catch on? - The Barman



Scroll down to comment

THE DROUGHT - Kill Devil Hills (Bang! Records/Torn & Frayed)
In the truest tradition of Spanish label Bang! signing any decent Australian band that moves and packaging them with all the bells and whistles, this is the overseas deluxe digipack edition of the Perth band's second album.

If you're an Aussie, you probably know The Kill Devil Hills, or at least know of them. Swampy, rickety, dark and brooding, The Kill Devil Hills manage to recall the Bad Seeds, the Beasts of Bourbon and the Dirty Three all in the space of three or four songs. A little bit country, a lot blues, the sextet infuse their music with trumpet, violin, banjo, mandolin and most anything else that moves.

Mostly recorded in the studio with a smattering of live tracks, "The Drought" is built on a big grooving bottom end and Brendon Humphries' commanding vocal. Intensity is a by-word even if things never ascend/descend into the chaotic underworld of The Birthday Party and associated junk rock. That feel in "New Country" sounds like it's fit to release the bats, though.

The mannered yet unsettling country rock of "Boneyard Rider" would sit well on the soundtrack of any Spaghetti Western, provided it was a splatter movie, while "Nasty Business" swaggers and wheezes like a serial killer with tuberculosis. By way of contract to the subdued and almost sweet music that accompanies it, that "headful of snow" in "Drugs, Spiaces & Silk" doesn't sound like much fun.

Dynamics are a big thing and The Kill Devil Hills have a command of them that would put less adventurous peers to shame. There's a moody delicacy in a song like "The Forsaken Few" that makes me think they've been around for about 20 years. It's not the case but you get the drift.

On "I Wonder If She's Thinking Of Me" Humphries sounds uncannily like the Cave man. It's a slow build but that eventually brings all the diverse elements of the band's sound into play.

I know the Bang! guys are apt to liken this record to the early Beasts and that's a fair call to some extent, but The Kill Devil Hills sound like they've sneezed up more rye grass than Tex and Co ever did. I'm hearing more parallels between them and James McCann, to be honest.

Hard to believe the band shares its name with a popular North Carolina family vacation town. - The Barman



HEATHEN SONGS – Kill Devil Hills (independent)
This Perth-based six piece band and their debut CD displays a curious mix of sounds, capturing a time and place that few other Australian roots music outfits have been capable of.

Comprising Brendon Humphries (vocals, acoustic/steel guitar), Steve Jones (vocals, acoustic/electric guitar), Steve Gibson (drums/vocals), Justin Castley (double bass), Mike de Grussa (organ/piano/harmonica/banjo) and Alex Archer (violin/clarinet), Kill Devil Hills blend a mix of sounds influenced by the likes of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Neil Young (in his mellow, acoustic mode) and (post E-Street band era) Bruce Springsteen. They're all recalled against the background of an ever present spooky and creepy kind of vibe.

Although the 11 tracks cover some some intriguing lyrical territory (particularly "Changing the Weather", "Gunslinger", "6-5" and "The People Stain"), there's also some well worn themes ("Drinking Too Much", 'Trying to Forget About You") woven into the mix. A standout element are the intriguing keyboard sounds which should really draw in the listener, as well as the classy musicianship from the rest of the

With 'Heathen Songs' Kill Devil Hills back up any connotations that their name may carry and do enough to impress anyonewho seeks this out. The band's said to be working on a second. Bring it on. - Simon Li