Charm City Devils will returns next month with its first new music in five years. The independent Baltimore, MD-based band will release its new EP 1904 Nov. 22 through Broken World Records. The five-song, 17-minute record is a welcome return for band, after such a long hiatus, and longtime fans of the band will agree to that statement, too. The acoustic take of the EP’s lead single ‘Skipping Stone’ serves well to show why the record is such a positive presentation. Much the same can be said of ‘Broken Hearts Broken Bones,’ the record’s penultimate song, and ‘Dollar Signs,’ the record’s second song. Each of the noted songs does its own part in making 1904 a powerful new offering from Charm City Devils. When they are considered along with the EP’s full, electric take of ‘Skipping Stone’ and ‘Tides Are Changin,’ the whole of the EP proves to be a positive testing of the waters for Charm City Devils after having been away for such a long time.
Charm City Devils’ forthcoming EP 1904 is a positive return for the band, especially considering the band’s activity and lack thereof over the course of the past five years. That is proven in part through the EP’s closer, the acoustic take of its opener, ‘Skipping Stone. The song’s acoustic take stands out in part because of its arrangement. It is difficult to fully put into words, but the full-on acoustic presentation and the “airy” nature of front man John Allen’s vocal delivery gives the song even more power than they do collectively in the song’s full-on plugged in take. That especially becomes the case in the song’s chorus. Whereas the plugged-in take of the song offers its own power in the choruses, the choruses in the acoustic take are just as strong because of the minimalist approach in the instrumentation. The arrangement in whole does a lot to make the song and take appealing, and is just one part of the noted appeal. The song’s lyrical content adds its own engagement and entertainment to the song.
The lyrical content featured in the song comes across as a statement about the need for people to be better than they are. In other words, it comes across as a certain kind of social commentary. This is inferred as Allen sings in the song’s lead verse, “Facing the mirror/These lines are getting clearer/Seeing a stranger that I hardly know/I know it’s only a fleeting reflection/That will bend no matter which way we go/Where we go nobody knows/But the river’s gonna take you home.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “We should be living/Like tomorrow may not be given to us/Every day is not guaranteed/Only accepting it’s a blessing/Your presence, till you discover what it is you need.” There may be some slight inconsistencies in the lyrics, having interpreted this without a lyrics sheet. That aside, enough is understood to know that the song’s message of living the best one can. That is inferred even more in the song’s final verse, in which Allen sings, “If you don’t listen, you’ll be missin’ the vision/You won’t be ready when the river bends/Every day cannot be taken for granted/So when you fall you gotta get back up again/But the river’s gonna take you home.” Yet again, here listeners get a seeming message about doing the best that they can in life, adding that doing so important so as to be ready for when unexpected situations come along. It is full-on metaphorical language, but seems relatively easy to translate. When this seeming message is joined with the song’s musical arrangement, the whole of the two elements makes this song a strong statement from the band, both in terms of its general content and in terms of the band’s overall return on record. The band is to be commended here, considering all of that. Of course this song is just one of the EP’s most notable works. ‘Broken Hearts Broken Bones does just as much as ‘Skipping Stone’ to make this EP stand out in whole.
The arrangement at the heart of ‘Broken Hearts Broken Bones,’ with its fuzzed guitar approach and hand-clapping effect almost immediately lends itself to comparisons to songs from the likes of Royal Blood, Queens of the Stone Age and other similar acts. That is especially the case as Allen’s vocal delivery is added to the mix. The airy, echoing effect in his delivery presented through the song’s production is the source of the effect. When all the noted elements are joined, the make the song’s 2:54 run time actually feel longer in the best way possible. What that means is that the arrangement by itself does a lot to leave listeners feeling fulfilled from this song. That is a strong statement in itself. The song’s lyrical content provides its own strong statement here.
The lyrics here are slightly difficult to decipher without lyrics. What can be understood just enough, is the lyrical content in the song’s chorus in which Allen sings, “Round and round we go/Take it fast/Take it slow/Where we stop, nobody knows/Broken hearts broken bones/Round and round we go.” The immediate thought here is that Allen is referencing the old adage about sticks and stones and words. The broken hearts could perhaps be a reference to the words while the broken bones could be a reference to the sticks and stones portion of the old saying. He even mentions in the end of the song’s second verse, “The only thing to keep me up now, who will take my place.” In other words, the song’s subject is wondering who that significant other will choose after the breakup. From there, he returns to the chorus, reiterating its statement again. Tackling the topic of broken relationships is nothing new for the music industry by any means. And the song’s lyrical approach is familiar, too. What is so notable here is that the song’s musical arrangement is less familiar considering the song’s seeming topic. Most breakup songs are either sad or angry. There is little to no middle ground out there within that realm. To that end, that slightly unfamiliar musical/emotional tone coupled with the noted content makes for quite the interesting listen. It is not the last of the EP’s most notable tracks, either. ‘Dollar Signs,’ the EP’s second track is noteworthy in its own right.
‘Dollar Signs’ presents an arrangement that any blues-rock fan will appreciate. Right from the song’s outset, that familiar sound comes right out and hits listeners’ ears loud and clear. Allen’s occasional screams conjure thoughts of Sammy Hagar, adding even more interest to the song’s musical side. The whole of the elements within the song’s musical arrangement makes for an infectious sound that is certain to get stuck in listeners’ heads. The song’s musical arrangement is only one of the song’s important elements. The song’s lyrical content is just as certain as its musical content to get stuck in listeners’ heads.
Allen sings in the song’s chorus, “Tell me/where does the time go/Tell me where it goes/We’ve been working all our lives/But I can’t spare a dime…when it’s all about the dollar signs.” He goes on to mention in the song’s second verse, having trouble making ends meet and not caring if he has anything to eat before returning to the song’s chorus, in which he continues singing about working throughout life and just trying to make ends meet. This is another topic to which listeners can relate. Set against the infectious, blues rock groove of the song’s musical arrangement, the whole of the song is yet another example of the EP’s strength. When it is considered alongside the acoustic take of ‘Skipping Stone,’ ‘Broken Hearts Broken Bones’ and the rest of the EP’s offerings, the whole of the record proves to be a positive return for Charm City Devils.
Charm City Devils’ first new record in five years is a positive offering from the band. That is because it presents easily accessible musical arrangements from start to finish for listeners. It is also due to the equally accessible and relatable lyrical content featured within each of the record’s original songs. That has been evidenced through three of the record’s songs in this review. When those songs are considered along with the EP’s one other original – ‘Tides Are Changin’ – the whole of the record becomes a work that is one more of this year’s top new EPs. More information on 1904 is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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