I do not put much stock in hyperbole. Whenever I read about hot new bands who are supposedly channeling the rock n roll spirit of Bruce Springsteen, The Clash and The Replacements, I get invariably disappointed when I finally get to listen to these bands for example, The Gaslight Anthem, Sharks, Bouncing Souls et al. I mean, the songs are weak, the melodies lack oomph and there is just no verve whatsoever. Boring.
So… I was pleasantly surprised when Devastate Me, the new album from Josh Flagg & the Obligations was put in front of me. Now, here was rock n roll meat I could actually get my teeth into. According to the bio, Flagg is a lifetime musician – meaning he has been on stage for as long as he can remember. And one can hear this ragged quality on this collection of songs. One senses that music isn’t a career choice, it’s fuckin’ life or death – the way God meant it to be!
“Seeing Red”, the blood-curdling opener that puts to shame all the other Springsteen wannabes, sets the tone brilliantly, you can feel Flagg‘s desperation in your gut – like some bat out of hell – the same flaming passion heard on Darkness at the Edge of Town – churning around in this fist-pumping white-knuckled anthem.
There is so much pent-up dark energy let loose in these songs (like “Bring Me Back To Life”, “Better Off Alone”, “Devastate Me”, “256″, “Come Back To Me”) that when married to good old-fashioned pop melodies, the impact is damn near irresistible. But on slower tracks like “Lullaby” and “Nothing Lasts”, the fragility of life is brought home in stark fashion, revealing an emotional versatility that is matured and nuanced.
Thanks to Josh Flagg & the Obligations for re-affirming that there is still life in ol’ rock n’ roll – rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. For those who want more substance in their music consumption, this note’s for you.
Buy Devastate Me from iTunes.