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Evans The Death - Evans The Death

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Artist: Evans The Death

Album: Evans The Death

Label: Slumberland

Review date: Jul. 23, 2012

Although the self-titled debut from London’s Evans The Death was released earlier this year, one would be hard-pressed to locate any signs of its date of origin. The band’s influences and sonic palette don’t seem to stretch past 1995, nor are there any lyrical or musical giveaways that reveal this approach to be a nostalgic one. Instead, Evans The Death feel like they could be contemporaries with any of the bands suggested by their sound — whether British (The Cure, early-’90s Britpop, The Smiths) or American (Pavement, The Pixies). Rather than mining the jewels of the past (which they are almost certainly too young to have heard the first time around), the band seems to think, almost naively, that one can leap back in time without presuming any distance or detachment from one’s chosen period. This attitude makes for an interesting listen, and enhances an excellent, if straightforward and unassuming, take on indie guitar pop.

Song lengths here average about 2 minutes, with the album as a whole coming in around half an hour. This fast-paced approach offers a crash course in early ’90s rock, running the stylistic gamut from Cure-like romanticism (“Catch Your Cold”) to a punk take on My Bloody Valentine squall (“Threads”). The dominant voice here, however, is that of The Smiths: it’s never quite overt, but the approach to melody, the sometimes idiosyncratic song structures, and the pervasive melancholia suggest a deep debt that doesn’t manifest itself through imitation. Despite their debts, though, Evans The Death never take an opportunistic approach, nor does their plurality of styles result in incoherence: The strong voice of Katharine Whitaker and the flashy guitars of songwriter Dan Moss provide a connective thread that runs throughout.

Whitaker manages to strike a delicate balance between detachment and passion, and delivers her mopey lines with that blend of self-irony and conviction characteristic of early Morrissey. Moss, meanwhile, proves a first-rate rock guitarist, long on effects and flourishes that add to the overall effect without calling undue attention to themselves, picking up on Johnny Marr’s lesson that great guitar playing doesn’t mean guitar-hero solos. Most of Moss’s songs are single-worthy, with a fine sense of economy and dramatic arc (see the exemplary “Morning Voice”). The band reaches their peak when Whitaker and Moss play their instruments off each other in carefully layered choruses (“Letter of Complaint”) and stop-and-go rhythms (“Wet Blanket”), precise without ever feeling overly belabored.

While it remains to be seen whether Evans The Death can mine this vein productively for more than 30 minutes, their debut conveys a unique sensibility that’s endearing without being cloying or calculated. In combination with a knack for writing catchy, energetic songs and a strong set of musicians, this makes for a promising formula.

By Michael Cramer

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