Jesus and Mary Chain, Royal Trux and Spacemen 3 aren’t evoked by many albums these days, but they’re present in glorious splendor on “Flower of Devotion,” the third full-length from Chicago trio Dehd. With singers Emily Kempf and Jason Balla trading snarling, sneering, drawling vocals over twanging, heavily reverbed guitars and echo-laden drums (with the all-important strategic tambourine), it’s an album that could have come out on Drag City Records in 1992 but instead brings a welcome jolt to today’s feeble rock landscape.
What makes “Flower of Devotion” so much more than a nerd-out for wizening rockers with long memories is the trio’s unexpectedly hook-filled songs, which are actually strengthened by their idiosyncratic setting: Kempf punctuates her verses with yelps and whoops and even almost-yodels; Balla’s drawl is almost comically exaggerated, and he knows how to craft a distinctive riff or melody that takes full advantage of his guitar’s reverb being turned up all the way, all the time.
The band’s template is basically the same as their earlier releases — it’s just five times better, with drastically improved sound and much more assured songwriting. There’s even an almost-ballad, “Flood,” with a slow-ish beat and wistful, somber tone. The songs deal with weighty topics — several are about loneliness and isolation (the two singers were formerly a couple), while “Month,” according to Balla, “explores the cyclical nature of memory and how our relationship with a particular time changes through the years,” but the combination of their singing styles and the bounce of the music often distract from the lyrics until after a couple of listens.
“Flower of Devotion” is one of the most lively and inspired rock albums to come down the pike in recent memory — and hopefully will inspire a pack of like-minded young musicians, who’ve never heard of the bands mentioned above, to follow in its wake.
Dehd “Flower of Devotion” (Fire Talk Records)