Are you hydrated? Bubblegum is one of two new albums from singer/songwriter Kevin Devine and his eighth studio album. After making his Kickstarter campaign goal of $50,000 in less than one day and raking up $114,000 by the end of it, Devine made good on his promise to put out two records. Bulldozer, a solo record produced by Rob Schnapf, smashingly continued with Devine’s refined blend of folk/rock, but Bubblegum has Devine driving into some new territory. Produced by Brand New’s Jesse Lacey and featuring Devine’s backing band, The Goddamn Band, Bubblegum is Kevin Devine without the folk.
The Goddamn Band in this incarnation has Mike Fadem on drums and Mike Strandberg on guitars, leaving Devine with vocals/guitar duty while sharing bass with Lacey. Right off the bat, this album is much grittier than Bulldozer—and most of Devine’s past catalog, for that matter. The tracks on Bubblegum show the precision that Devine’s tours possess with the GDB behind him. Each and every song sticks out musically for one reason or another—whether it’s the groovy bass line of “Sick of Words,” or the various movements of “Somewhere Unoccupied.”
Lyrically, Bubblegum delivers. “Private First Class” questions the difference made by Private Manning releasing government documents, saying: “If it was you / You might wish you’d been born a liar / A coward.”
“I Can’t Believe You” fights hard for top track on this side. In it, Devine sings of the back-and-forth in relationships gone bad with lines like: “I plead ‘Peace!’ then build the bomb back / The second the treaty’s signed / Letting go is an active practice / I’m working at it all the time.Bubblegum’s version of “She Can See Me” may share a name, lyrics and melody with one on Bulldozer, but the arrangement is totally its own—complete with a breakdown.
Album closer “I Don’t Care About Your Band” is a clever song that starts by stating: “I don’t care about your band / I thought I could; turns out I can’t,” before praising the receiver for being an honest guy.
Many artists have released two albums at once and more often than not, it turns out only being one album’s worth of quality material and let downs all-around. But Devine has managed to do it and make it seem effortless. It will be interesting to see what Devine does next due to this apparent fork of two sounds, but between Bulldozer and Bubblegum, Kevin Devine has given us something to chew on.
Listen to Kevin Devine’s Daytrotter session here.