A Mad and Faithful Telling

Depending on your taste, DeVotchKa either conjures the weird fury of an Eastern European folk band intent on conquering the diverse genres of mariachi, klezmer, spaghetti Western, and anything else Americans find exotic; or the Denver quartet merely strikes you as perfect background music for a haunted Olive Garden.

A Mad and Faithful Telling, DeVotchKa's fifth release in ten years, again stalks the nebulous terrain between postmodern pastiche and a genuine passion for ethnic instrumentation (sousaphone, bouzouki, accordion). Like rowdier siblings Gogol Bordello, DeVotchKa boasts a deep love for varied musical forms that can't be faked.

With contributions to the films Everything Is Illuminated and Little Miss Sunshine still fresh in people's minds, the band signed with ANTI- (home of Tom Waits and Nick Cave), resulting in a masterpiece of breathtakingly cinematic pop music. Frontman and lyricist Nick Urata preserves his Italian bel canto singing approach, which shines in soaring south-of-the-border anthem "Along the Way": The gringos block the roads/inside your head/Are you sleeping it off/when you're not in your bed? "Undone," a falsetto-fueled ballad, evokes a mood of grief-stricken passion with a melody powerful enough to extinguish the Spanish Civil War.

It's not all such serious heartbreak, though: Violin-enriched "Comrade Z" and accordion-flavored "Strizzalo" are bawdy instrumentals for a drinking tour of Old Europe. Uncork a wineskin, and spin this album. (Anti-)


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