Devine & Statton

Cardiffians

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The second and last Devine & Statton album was even more concerned with the Welsh backgrounds of its two members, specifically the city the two called home. Aiming at what Ian Devine later called creating "a paean to Cardiff," the two, again supported with several side performers -- notably including New Order's Peter Hook on bass and regular Tom Waits collaborator Marc Ribot on guitar -- created another excellent effort showcasing (mostly) acoustic guitar/vocal-led numbers that carried both precision and sharp lyrical heft. Alison Statton's voice carries a little more variety here than on The Prince of Wales, to great effect, while Ian Devine's songwriting again combines sometimes involved sentiments and lyrics with a sudden crisp clarity in both words and music, at once "indie pop" and something far more than that limiting label would imply. The key difference is a bigger, richer sound overall, using more electronics and echo without changing the key connection at the heart of the partnership. Opening song "Hideaway" was seen by many, including the Crepuscule label's head, as the duo's ultimate song, and it's not hard to hear why -- with a soaring chorus adding just a little touch of the anthemic to the sound, not to mention a full but not overly busy arrangement, it's a beautiful burst of energy. That new surge of power, accentuated by textured electric guitar parts, plays out throughout the album in different ways, such as the sudden driving drums on "Crestfallen" or the conclusion of "A Fact of Life," or even the vast sense of scope on the album-ending "Last Days." Like the previous album, Cardiffians has a cover version and it's a beaut -- Crystal Gayle's gentle '70s country smash "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," with an arrangement not too different from the original but with Statton's voice in excelsis. LTM's reissue repeats the Everett True essay from the Prince of Wales reissue while including five bonus tracks -- two unreleased numbers from the recording sessions, alternate versions of "Hideaway" and "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," and the curious instrumental "Advertisement," which has nothing to do with the duo, who have no idea why it was included on a single.

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