Coming back to an album like this, from way back in 1997, makes me think only tangentially about the actual music, so I’ll get that out of the way first.
David Devant and His Spirit Wife made this album as a refreshing move away from the often overblown Britpop BS of the mid 90s. Their songs are witty and clever and inventive, but still safely within the indie rock framework that my small minded, 20-ish brain could permit me to listen to.
Remarkably, I can still remember getting the CD at HMV, taking it home and enjoying it.
If that sounds like damning with faint praise, that’s because I can also remember feeling distinctly deflated by the listening experience, based on my history with the band, and my expectations. They were set not by any recording but by a few truly fantastic nights watching them live before the album came out.
In my brush with a “band scene”, while at uni in Liverpool, I had a few moments of hearing about up-and-coming bands that were still not much on the national radar. David Devant was one of these. They were recommended to me by some people I wished I was as cool as, so I made sure I saw them in Liverpool twice, and then again at Night and Day in Manchester a few months later.
Every time, their live set was absolutely fantastic. As well as the fun and energy of their oddball on-stage personas – writing songs about things like Cluedo – their line-up included a sort of Gilbert and George performance act. One small example: While playing their single “Ginger”, they had Gilbert (or was it George?) stand in front of the stage while his colleague grated carrot onto his head, and then would violently flip his head forward onto the crowd, dousing us in the veg. Yes, you read that correctly. This was a very strange experience, among many others, that demonstrated clearly the band didn’t give a fuck about the overblown Oasis-type, cool Britannia shite we had all had to endure for the last few years.
They were also the precursor to other great bands like Art Brut, who were willing to make themselves the court jester instead of (yet another) rock and roll star. For that I love them, and hope they know that they were loved.
Listening to the album as I write this, for the first time in at least a decade, I’m glad I’ve come back to them, and I’d still recommend people check them out, but be aware as you do that there is nothing they could have recorded that could add up to those lunatic nights in their company.
Words by Nick Parker