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Divine Fits 'A Thing Called Divine Fits'

Divine Fits
A Thing Called Divine Fits
(EMI) 

Call it a supergroup or side project or whatever – it’s got Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks’ Sam Brown. And while there’s a certain detached rock ‘n’ roll cool radiating from these songs, especially the Daniel ones, it’s a breakup record in the wake of Boeckner ending both his marriage to Alexei Perry and their electronic-minded project Handsome Furs. (Read Boeckner broaching the subject here on TheVine.)

So there are two distinct sides to this thing called Divine Fits, yet the songs are so of a piece with each other that they’d have to lose some degree of strength if separated. It’s a record of overlapping and mingling; if the Boeckner’s opening ‘My Love is Real’ (“My love is real / until it stops”) sounds an awful lot like Handsome Furs, Daniel’s later contribution ‘Like Ice Cream’ could easily slot into the Spoon playbook.

But generally it’s not that easy: they meet each other somewhere in the middle, feeding off their mutual nervous energy and wiry delivery. Their scratchy voices even start resemble each other in a way, though Daniel breaks into a more sensual, prowling falsetto that makes Boeckner’s bark seem all the leaner and hungrier by contrast.

Most of all they’re cool songs. Even if you don’t read into Boeckner’s lyrics in the least, there are lots of sharp edges, glowering tones and minimal structures here. ‘What Gets You Alone’ really powers along, while the threadbare lead single ‘Would That Not Be Nice’ is content to cruise on natural charisma. ‘Flaggin’ A Ride’ is darkly debonair, ‘The Salton Sea’ is all about a convulsive electronic pulse and ‘For Your Heart’ showcases both ominous synth textures and skittering New Order-isms.

It’s Boeckner’s record, I’d have to say, with Daniel there for crucial support – to flank his recovering friend with his own naturally robust songwriting. And Boeckner’s mood seems to gradually brighten over the course of the record, reflected in the melodic twinges of ‘Baby Get Worse’ and in the more human and acoustic-based ‘Civilian Stripes’ – two songs that sit side by side to make a definite centrepiece.

Then there’s the cover of Rowland S. Howard’s ‘Shivers’, which can never be separated completely from its creator. But Daniel is obviously reverent singing lead on it, and the frayed finale confirms its success, even if it would have worked better as the last track. Instead, the last track is the synth-y ‘Neopolitans’, which feels at once claustrophobic and exploratory and ends the album on a disconnected note.

It’s an odd record, and comparatively slow to make its inner strength known to us. It has no trouble at all establishing traction, but it initially feels thinner than it really is. It works better with headphones, where the sketch-like contours seem more defined and not as much of it threatens to dissipate in the air. But in the end, it very much draws you in.

Doug Wallen

 




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