Back in the day, rock’n’roll was denounced as the devil’s music. It was hardly an original condemnation – Robert Johnson famously (and almost certainly gratuitously) suggested he’d sold his soul in exchange for prowess on the guitar – while the tight bond between church, state and high art in centuries past provided a convenient opportunity to marginalise any proletariat musical form as the work of the devil.
Notwithstanding the marked decline in religious observation, the overt invocation of the devil’s image with rock’n’roll can still have a significant effect. Whether Rich Davies And The Devil’s Union are playing the devil’s music is moot; what is clear is there is little sunshine and insipid pop happiness to be found on the band’s eponymous debut album. This is an intense record, equal parts sparse and brutal, blessed with a thick atmosphere replete with confronting imagery.
Superficially, I Died In The Morning Sun takes its cues from Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds; on a deeper level it’s heir to a southern American blues tradition. Buy Me A Pony is down and dirty in the gutter, A Blood Red Waltz revels in its gypsy-like take on death and all its perversely intriguing tentacles while the light touch of Heavy Red defies the song’s heavy lyrical content.
The classic bar room feel of God Hates The Westboro Baptist Church takes aim at certain denominations’ mutation of biblical verse to denounce anything and everything as the work of the devil; Christian Image is the companion piece, its focus the self-proclaimed Christian with a litany of human failings.
Religious discourse is a complex beast, used and abused in the name of vested interests and skewed visions for centuries. Rich Davies And The Devil’s Union have found something where others fear to tread.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: Buy Me A Pony
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: NICK CAVE, LITTLE JOHN, HUGO RACE
In A Word: Death