REVIEW: Bad Books – “Bad Books”

Bad Books / Bad Books / Favourite Gentlemen

Bad Books is the name given to the group formed by the union of – and self-titled debut from – Manchester Orchestra and folk artist Kevin Devine. The heartfelt songsters have received some criticism for releasing a final product that was more a split EP for the two musical entities concerned than a fully-fledged collaborative LP. The fact that Devine and Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull have evenly split song-writing duties for the album seems to lend some credibility to that theory, as do songs such as “You’re a Mirror I Cannot Avoid” and “Please Move”, which are perfect examples of songs you’d find on setlists at Kevin Devine or Manchester Orchestra concerts, respectively. That doesn’t mean Hull and Devine’s vocal harmonies in “Please Move” aren’t achingly beautiful, because they are; not to mention something that may never have come to fruition if not for this collaboration. Ditto for the explosive cathartic release at the end of the Devine-penned “Holding Down The Laughter”.

So maybe it was a mistake to expect this to be a super group akin to Audioslave or Velvet Underground, where the whole sounds noticeably different than the previous work put forward by the pieces. After all, the players involved are certainly cut from a vastly different musical cloth than those platinum-selling chart toppers. Maybe Bad Books was just about lending a hand for friends to achieve something more than they could have by themselves. “You Wouldn’t Have To Ask” is a perfect example of this. Sure, it was a cute yet meaningful song when Devine wrote and performed it on his own earlier this year, but adding a full band and Hull’s pleading wail helped it become the unrivaled best track on the album – not to mention one of the best songs of the year.

Download: “You Wouldn’t Have To Ask”, “Please Move”

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