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When you book some dates at a recording studio, it’s fairly common practice for the engineer to ask you what bands you sound like. It isn’t intended as an insult to your originality, it’s just them making sure the right microphones or whatnot are available. An engineer friend of mine periodically exhibits frustration with bands that insist that they absolutely don’t sound like anybody else. It is these bands, he says, that 99 times out of 100 sound exactly like someone else.
  And that’s a pretty good rule of thumb, in music and perhaps in life generally. I would expect that it’s actually a fairly widespread belief, even among degenerate Free Press readers. But humor me for a second, folks, while I review a record from a band that honest-to-God doesn’t sound like anybody else.
  A year and a half ago I did a concert review of a band called the Devil Doves, who I stumbled into following a Blue Jackets game. They’ve finally gotten around to putting out an eponymous debut album, which is, like, fantastic. And also very hard to adequately explain.
  The band is Junior Kauffman on guitar and lead vocals, Eric Nassau on bass and Kyle Davis on a percussion instrument derived from a dresser drawer called a “cajon.” Lest you think the cajon is some sort of gimmick, I would note that Davis is perfectly capable of making the thing sound like a full drum kit if he feels like it; on a lot of these tracks you would bet Aunt Maggie’s last moose that there are tracks of a kick, snare, and hi-hat. Try Track nine, “Roll the Dice,” for a showcase of Davis’ percussion work.
  With respect to their music, here’s at least stab at a description: the Doves have a seriously tight and fluid groove that serves as a platform for whip smart scat vocals, except when they decide to do something else. The songs are carefully arranged, with layered choruses and bridges and extended bars containing as many lyrical syllables as Kaufman can gleefully shoehorn in.
  The Dove’s rhythm section ratchets the intensity up and down at will. Check out the frantic and paranoid “Untitled Murder Song Number 3” (which also contains some nice guitar work), and the fifth track, “Things that Keep Us Apart,” and try to keep track of the shifts.
  Kauffman is a lyrical treasure. The album opens with “45 minutes,” in which Kaufman declares that he is a little man, but that he can “dig a big woman.” The woman in question is a casual sort of gambler, for whom Kaufman notes “when the nickel slots are paying, that’s the only time she’s playing.” We all know the house edge on slots is brutal, and that we should be playing blackjack, but god we love her anyway.
  The lyrics keep coming. In “Untitled Murder Song Number 1,” the narrator looks back in anger at the seductress who lured him to her bed, promising to take up “with the fury and the passion of the dead.” Self awareness reasserts itself in “On the Lamb,” where the narrator simply states “[c]ould this be any more embarrassing? For the both of us? I don’t know...”
  The aforementioned “Things that Keep Us Apart” is a plea for relationship sanity, begging that the subject “call me up, hash it out, talk about the things we don’t really know about.” At one point Kaufman asks “do you recall what Franklin, said about secrets?” If memory serves, Ben Franklin noted that “three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”
  If I had to highlight some tracks, I would pick “Oh Baby,” a song that I remember from that long ago concert I attended. It’s a lazy love song with nice harmonies that picks up on the chorus. Some of the lyrics are mildly pornographic, and although I find them amusing it occurs to me that without them this song could be a hit.
  I would also mention “Valentine,” a slow, rueful, love song, with the gorgeous lyric “a house is just a mess of sticks,” as well as “Witches and Voodoo,” a bizarre vignette of a place where “every other week another body’s found,” yet “sexual tension hangs in the air like an early morning mist.”
  The final track on the album, “Modern Age,” offers a wry summation -- “I am filled with the will to complain about things, that can’t be changed.” This, my friends, is truth. It’s a fantastic album -- these songs have been incubated through countless live shows, and there isn’t a weak one on the disc. I loved it -- it’s been in my truck’s CD player for a week.
  The release party will at Rambling House Soda on Saturday, May 16th.
  Review requests and constructive criticism may be sent to