Monday, 11 July 2005

Album: The Departure - Dirty Words

The Departure Dirty Words

If you wanted to crucify The Departure, they’ve given you lots of material to work with. There’s their youth, the fact that they were signed after only a few gigs, and the stories of singer David Jones’ childhood in the Jesus Army, isolated from the modern world until the age of 15. And I haven’t even touched the rumour that they were manufactured…

When I first saw them nine months ago, I thought they were just TOO good to be real. But maybe they just had to be - this is the age of the firework career, and only a few acts get more than one crack at it. Which is why it helps that four of the eleven tracks on Dirty Words have already been released on singles, making it feel a little like a greatest hits set already.

If you want to spot reference points, you don’t have to look too hard – the guitar break on Talk Show could be an outtake from War-era U2, the bass line in Changing Pilots is pure Duran, and there are hints of the Bunnymen, Depeche Mode and The Comsat Angels. But these are all British signposts – there’s also reminders of the Deluxe-era INXS [but without the charismatic front man], Kids In The Kitchen and The Expression.

There are enough hooks here to fish a river dry; whether they catch you or not will probably depend more on your attitude to the band itself, rather than the music they make. It’s a solid record, which grows with repeated listening, but it’s not going to change anyone’s life; the Numan-esque alienation of both lyrics and vocals will stop you loving it too much.

Still, it’s better than The Killers debut, and the band are a better prospect live. The biggest criticism is that the recording is too clean and reserved, as all the rough edges have been hewn away. Which is a shame, as Ben’s a great bassist, and the interplay between the two guitars provides solid entertainment. So go and see them at The Corner, and expect to nod in appreciation, rather than have a Franz-like conversion.

Then again, if you look at early Depeche Mode, you‘d never imagine meek Dave Gahan could become the Hutchence-like rock god of Devotional [even if it did nearly kill him], so there is hope. At a recent instore, Lee was sporting a beard and a Smiths t-shirt, and ended the gig by throwing himself into the audience, guitar and all. The Departure have been signed for a five-album deal; if they get past this, they may even find their own voice.

© James McGalliard 2007
A version of this review first appeared in Inpress, Melbourne in July 2005