There is a definite cool to Charmian Devi’s new double A-side. It’s the cool of a hushed Sonic Youth, of a sun dappled Pixies, of a slinked up Breeders and a waxed Patti Smith. All the imagery’s there, all the drugged sun soaked sounds, the repetitive springs of tremolo guitars and a suitably soft 60’s organ. But like all of the best happy songs that we know (think of anything Smiths, or Foster The People’s still stand out ‘Pumped Up Kicks’) , once you dig past the shine there’s a grounding.
In amongst all the bounce and the ease, Devis’ monochrome whisper sings the punk side of soothing with words that cut sharp through the happy. “Blood / Stains blood/ Stains blood / Stains prayers / Fall / Prayers/ Fall”.
I admit I was tricked by the music. Having picked up the scent of a New York punk hangover, I thought I knew what was coming; some internal angst and a dark retrospective on lifestyles and excessive consumption. But ‘No Peace’ is neater than that. It’s an abstract reflection on an attack on a mosque in Charmian Devi’s home town, in the month after Trump became president.
“I hear no peace / In the jaws of the crass” is the repeated refrain of the chorus. “Prophets sing ‘halt’ / The windows are smashing” is as clean an account as there can be. What keeps that talked about cool of the track is the no added colour or calling; nothing’s over embellished, there’s no sympathy asked for, and no overt political leaning. We’re left to make own call on who constitutes ‘crass’ and that openness adds to the candour. This could have easily been a straight up protest song, but instead we can choose our own focus.
‘Radio of None’ takes the same set of textures, but here they’re relaxed to a pattering rhythm that struggles to keep itself flowing. There’s a feel it could all fall apart any second as we move through its jilted connections. Loneliness, our own worlds, our own worlds connecting, they’re the themes of the words Devi offers. Where the last track had purpose and focus, this moves through like a free meditation.
As with ‘No Peace’, there’s an interest in hearing what this this wealth of musicians created (guitarist Lenny Kaye – Patti Smith Group, Tony Garnier – Bob Dylan’s bass player since 1989, as well as Tom Waits and Paul Simon, and Sonic Youth drummer, Steve Shelley), and there’s an interest in tuning in to Devi’s drifting emotions, but no clear succinct draw overtakes it. ‘Radio of None’ is happy floating on airwaves, and maybe that’s the point of the song…
Either way, track down this single. As a couple they sit sweet and easy, and Charmian Devi’s voice is a pleasure.