Album Review – Devil For The Fire by Vundabar (Gawk Records) (2022)
Vundabar are a Boston based threesome, who over the course of their previous four albums, have always tested and twisted the blurred edges of both noise-pop and alt. jangle-pop.
Famed for the melodic emotionality that resides within their beautiful mayhem, this fifth Devil For The Firealbum just seems to resonate with a passion that borders on despair, as the album was written during COVID times when frontman, Brandon’s Hagen’s father, was critically ill with a stroke.
Very few of us would have had life excerpts or experience to draw upon in such strange times and as such it is no surprise that Hagen’s voice, already renowned for the impassioned nature of perfectly imperfect squall and bellow, now feels so adroitly appropriate in tracks such as the truncated garage rock of Deep Water and the almost coldwave minimalism of the title track, as well as the superlative stand out of the closing, Alien Blues. As crude, native and raw as anything they have previously released, you sound exudes the turmoil and uncertainty within.
As intense and torrid as such tracks are, this is not an album that is going to launch a full frontal attack upon your melancholy, as Vundabar can always be relied upon to augment every release with their version of beauty.
As such Lore chimes and jangles somewhere between the jangle-gaze of Swiss Portrait and the cinematic intensity of Tears for Fears, whereas The Gloam courses surf rock riffs through a sprightly, early 90s era, The Cure vibe.
Similarly, the trip down the various avenues of alt.jangle is followed in Nosfartu and Listless Blue, which are saved from mere sunshine-pop by the new wave vocal yelps, whereas the distance, smooth grooves of Heatwave take on slight Tame Impala, neo-psyche feel, replacing the genre’s tendency towards floaty fluffiness, with guitar muscularity.
Vundabar will always be different. So if you are one of these jangle-pop fans who insist that anything after The Byrds is irrelevant unless it is Teenage Fanclub, then avert your ears. For those of us prepared to embraced difference, this is as good as alt.jangle gets.