Album Review: Bulldozer – Kevin Devine

By now you know the story. Kevin Devine recorded and released two different LPs simultaneously, funded completely through Kickstarter. The first, Bubblegum, was one of the fiercest albums that 2013 had to offer. It was recorded with his Goddamn Band and producer Jesse Lacey. There was a conscious decision to make it rollicking. It stands to reason then that the second, being his solo album, would be styled more to his usual material.

The coolest part about this whole thing is that while it is, it also isn’t.

Bulldozer is the culmination of Kevin Devine’s career, including Bubblegum. His “usual” is still in there, but it’s louder and faster and more beautiful than anything he’s released to date.

You’ll hear the difference on the first track. ‘Now: Navigate!” is Kev Dev 2.0. The music still sounds like a full band, but they’re more complementary now, with the focus being on the guitar work and that stunning wordplay that anyone who knows Kevin’s work expects by now.

Being from Brooklyn, it’s no surprise that the fallout of Hurricane Sandy and her devastation had a lot of effect on his outlook and his eventual music. Much like the economy and the Chelsea Manning ordeal on Bubblegum, Kevin works it into a concept of sorts, creating a theme that he bases the rest of the album around. Even on the songs that deal with romance (or lack thereof), Kevin still keeps his sound fresh and in line with the rest of the album. He knows how to track his records, that’s for sure.

There’s still good bit of focus on that frustrating bit of emotion where you’re not sure what to do or what’s right and wrong, but the key here is that Kevin has given up understanding it. It simply is. The track ‘Couldn’t Be Happier’ is a particularly striking one, as a line in the song turns from “I’d never been happier with you” to “I couldn’t be happier for you,” a simple turn of the phrase that packs a wallop upon first listen. “The Worm in Every Apple” might feature some of my favorite KD lyricism to date, and “She Can See Me” is a track that is actually featured on both albums – done in completely different ways, of course. The version on Bulldozer is a light and breezy power pop number that comes in with such unexpected force that it’s easy to see the brilliance in its placement. The message is clear – ‘she’ can see me, ‘she’ can see you, and whoever ‘she’ is to you, it won’t change that fact.

For all the emotion captured in the first eight tracks, the last two completely own you and really encapsulate the entire album. ‘For Eugene’ is a lovely ballad of a man who is unwilling to abandon all the history in his house even with it being threatened by a natural disaster. It’s a heartbreaking ballad with a real truth to it – Kevin’s style perfected. ‘Safe’ is the album closer and it further reinforces the loose ‘concept’ of the record.  After all the ordeals he’s had with family and friends, with lovers and liars, with hurricanes and heartbreak, he’s still safe. He’s safe in his music and he’s safe on stage, singing the songs that mean so much to him. With everything that’s happened and everything he’s singing about, that’s as much a comfort to me as anything.

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