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Devine and Griffiths - Wheels Get to Heaven

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 5 / 3 / 2008

Devine and Griffiths - Wheels Get to Heaven
Label: Anhrefn
Format: CD


Haunting late night indie rock from British singer-songwriting duo, Ian Devine, who has also worked with Young Marble Giants' Alison Statton, and Amanda Griffiths

I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that the name of Ian Devine who sings and plays mandolin and guitar on these nine self-composed songs was a name that I remembered from some far-off days. But the name of Amanda Griffiths who supplies the other voice on this album didn’t register at all. Once the opening song, ‘Wheels To get To Heaven’, began it all came back…Devine and Statton…surely it was the same guy? Statton was one Alison Statton, once a member of two influential bands, Young Marble Giants and Weekend and who also made at least one album, ‘Tidal Blues’ with Spike, also a member of Weekend. I know this because I own and loved those albums way back in the mists of time. At one point they were the only albums for those 3am moments or those wet and windy melancholic Sunday afternoons. My interest in Alison Statton’s compelling vocals led me to the duo of Devine and Statton when they recorded their first album in 1988, ‘The Prince Of Wales’. Ian Devine wrote all the songs on that album apart from the cover of New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’. The album followed on from Weekend’s jazzy leanings adding a little blues and pop into the mix. The duo followed up that debut with ‘Cardiffians’ a couple of years later. Although my initial interest in the duo was because of Alison Statton’s vocals it wasn’t long before I was captivated by the exceptional song writing of Ian Devine. So although it has been many years since I actually played those Devine and Statton albums, and even longer since I had listened to Weekend, I was pleased to have the opportunity to hear what this Welshman was producing in 2008. Thankfully, it’s not so far removed from the music that Devine was making with Statton. Strangely the first time I listened to this album was also during one of those wet Sunday afternoons, the second time was a sleepless night when this album was the first CD I reached to for the peace to prepare me for the sleep which was hopefully to come. It didn’t by the way, I was so mesmerised by the sound of this duo I wanted to wallow in this beautiful music until day break. Opening with the title track, which features some of the best guitar lines I’ve heard in a while, all dreamy, warm and dark ( think Richard Hawley and you’re almost there, no wait…with Amanda’s ghostly vocals think Julee Cruise and the 'Twin Peaks' soundtrack ) it’s only seconds before Griffiths sings the line, “ Will you please make a vow, not to pester me again” in her almost whisper and it’s all that is needed to know that for anyone who loves that little-girl-lost vocal sound with an ever-so- slight menacing edge to it that here is your next favourite band. Devine’s vocals are…different to say the least. While it could be argued if he is actually singing; it’s more of a raspy murmur which is, for the most part, well buried under his partner’s vocals, but it works so well. Imagine Lee Hazlewood muttering in the background of a Vanessa Paradis song and you’re halfway there. For me a whole album in the vein of that opening song would have been ideal. But the duo don’t actually visit that particular place again on this collection of songs. The following song, ‘Insecurity’, is not so far removed sonically but it lacks that certain something extra that ‘Wheels To Get To Heaven’ has that makes it such an outstanding song. Although only nine songs short the album does tend to pall halfway through, too much of a good thing maybe, but the closing song, ‘Stain On My Heart’, manages to redeem the album. With Griffiths almost talking her way through the lyrics the guitars on this song shimmer and shine like on no other song here and add a little welcome texture before the album ends. This really is an album for late nights / early mornings and to get the best effect out of Devine’s extraordinary vocals listening to the album on headphones is the best way to appreciate just how well this duo sound together. One for the beside table I think.

Track Listing:-
1 Wheels To Get To Heaven
2 Insecurity
3 Prince Of Light (Don't Go Rushing Off Into The Night)
4 The Trouble She's In
5 Lucky Day
6 Reclusive Soul
7 Go Girl
8 I'm So Happy I'm Afraid I Might Die
9 Stain On My Heart

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