Album Review: Kevin Devine – Instigator

You’d be forgiven for thinking any artist whose relentless work ethic has delivered nine albums in ten years (not to mention countless EP’s and side-projects) might be running out ideas by now. Not for Kevin Devine.

The Brooklyn native is back with another set of introspective tracks that greet you like the warm embrace of an old friend from the first listen. The themes are familiar – political, anti-system, better times, worse times, reflection, frustration – and set to a mostly college/alt-rock soundtrack that takes in a good splash of indie, punk and folk and screams of a man who knows how to put a song together.

That’s not to say ‘Instigator’ is treading old ground – this is a calmer affair than previous efforts such as 2008’s ‘Brothers Blood,’ but decidedly more aggressive than his more recent work with folk-indie project Bad Books. But this might be his most scathing take yet on post-9/11 America. He’s still pissed off, and no amount of soul-searching, song writing or touring is going to make him ignore what a fucking mess the world is in – most notably on ‘Freddie Gray Blues,’ an ode to the angry and disillusioned communities all over the States being killed and let down by the system time and again.

Devine’s career to date is a journey that has arguably enjoyed the best of both worlds – the exposure of both major and independent label support, the ability and confidence to shift between mellow acoustic and straight-up rock records, touring with friends like Brand New, Thrice and Nada Surf, whilst also being an underground solo sensation in his own right. Similarly, ‘Instigator’ demonstrates Devine’s love for both guitar-heavy alt rock on stand-out tracks like ‘No Why’ and ‘Magic Magnet,’ and singer songwriters (Elliot Smith, Bob Dylan) on the more folk-y ‘No One Says You Gave To.’ There’s even echoes of 60’s blues rock on the organ happy Nirvana-meets-The Doors ‘Guard Your Gates.’

This record is perhaps best summed up by Devine himself; “We’re crying the white privileged blues…” Maybe so, but ‘Instigator’ is a welcome reminder that Kevin Devine isn’t running out of things to say. In fact, I think he’s just getting started.


‘Instigator’ by Kevin Devine is released on October 21st on Big Scary Monsters/Procrastinate! Music Traitors.

Kevin Devine links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

Words by Adam Lewis (@adamlew86)


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