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EMPTY BOTTLES, BROKEN HEARTS REVIEWS

Tim Sheridan (AMG)

Spencer Moody's hollering vocals may make you want to run and hide, but fans of thick and chunky rock will revel in this silly and entertaining record. Any band that draws its inspiration from such sources as the film Night of the Hunter ("Left Hand Right Hand") and punk legend Johnny Thunders must have something to say.

Andrew Magilow (Splendid E-zine)

When Murder City Devils vocalist Spencer Moody clamors "I've got a job to do" in "Dancin' Shoes", you can't help but take a step back in suspicion -- or is it really suppressed emotions of unmitigated fear that you're dealing with? Copping chops from the likes of the Dead Boys and the Stooges, the core of the MCDs' music is raw, naked rock 'n' roll. However, the Devils take this kernel and cover it with a shroud of multi-tracked vocals and ominous, haunting organ lines that righteously accentuate the punk sensibilities of the band. And we're talking 70's punk influences here, you young whippersnappers, which can be aptly summed up on the conveniently entitled "Johnny Thunders," in which the guitar takes control almost immediately. Moody takes an occasional liberty with his raspy and volatile voice, introducing a few howls and the "drill-sergeant-in-your-face" growling that's highly effective and quite befitting. The MCDs aren't out to break into a new musical dimension of creativity, nor travel into spatial expressionism; they're here to rock, and Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts does indeed rock out -- I guarantee it.

Michael Buchmiller (Hand Carved Magazine)


Some people were born to rock and roll. Luckily for us, a bunch of those people got together and started a band called the Murder City Devils. Dark, moody, and even evil sounding at times, these guys build up a thick sound with their dual guitars and farfisa organ. They just cut the treble out of all of the songs and go straight for the deep, bass-y sound unexplainable in any terms other than rock 'n' roll. They've got a slow, grinding tempo that just grabs me. They are in no hurry... they know exactly where they are and where they want to take you. Don't misunderstand my use of the word "slow"... they aren't mellow by any means. They are hard and heavy... just slow, calculating. Almost like they are sneaking up behind someone, waiting for the perfect moment to jump out and scare the pants off of them.

The singer has an angst-filled, throaty, raspy, emotional moaning and yelling he keeps up, amazingly enough, through the entire album. My voice gets sore after singing along to just a handful of these tunes. My friend Dawn recommend I check these guys out when they came through town so I took her advice, having never heard a single song from them. Let me tell you, they rocked my socks off. I left the place owning their complete discography. Their underground following was going nuts the entire time they were on stage. This band was just dripping with stage presence and character. Hell, half way through their set they lit their drum kit on fire. Now that's rock 'n' roll! I'll leave the rest to your imaginations.

On "Empty Bottles Broken Hearts," or as it is so cleverly transposed on the other side of the album "Broken Hearts Empty Bottles," they sing a lot about women, drinking, sailors, and truckers. The song "Left Hand Right Hand" was inspired by the film "Night of The Hunter." Two of my favorite songs are "18 Wheels" and "Dancin' Shoes" which can also be found on their 7". The Murder City Devils harness the spirit of rock 'n' roll for another generation. Any open-minded fan of music will find some level of appreciation for this band. I'm not making a guarantee that everyone will like them, but at least have respect for what they do. The rest of you will be blown away and thank me for writing this review.

Jason Josephes (Pitchfork)


(7.4 rating)
The Murder City Devils strike me as the seedy side of Sha Na Na with raging alcoholism instead of stupid outfits; you don't wanna mess with these guys, even though they say they'd rather drink than fight. There's plenty o' empties in the backseat, and speaking of empties, Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts is a beer-soaked, punk-rock-lovin' good time. You want the Farfisa? You want the sneers? The be-bop hellion on a moonlit Saturday night, all James Dean and not so clean? The looks of a rumble in the making? You want a side of music with it?

The record kicks off with "I Want a Lot Now (So Come On)," a classic example of how to start an album. Stompin' drums, shouted lyrics, loud guitar. What more do you need? "Cradle to the Grave" is a slower form of moaner all lathered up and ready to be rinsed in staccato organ stabs. It's too drunk to swagger, but somehow they pull it off. I really can't emphasize this beer angle enough, for it's beer that makes songs like "Another Round on You" and "Left Hand, Right Hand" possible. The titles "18 Wheels," "Johnny Thunders," and "Every Shitty Thing" deliver what's promised with a little extra liver-lovin' spirit. My heart ain't broken, but Bottles is smokin'.


John Brady (Bad Subjects)


"Recall that at one time rock and roll' was a euphemism for fucking. Rock and roll was a threat to decency and worrisome in its effect on young people."
-- From the Sub Pop promotional package for Empty Bottles Broken Hearts
Empty Bottles Broken Hearts is the second full-length release by Seattle's Murder City Devils. It follows up on the band's first self-titled LP released on the Sub Pop punk imprint Die Young Stay Pretty in 1997.
Empty Bottles is a scorcher, offering up twelve songs of alcohol-fueled, blistering punk rock. Lead singer Spencer Moody yells and howls about death, alienation, liquor and the wild abandon of life with such intensity and heat that the paint threatens to peel right off of your walls. If that weren't enough, the rest of the band pounds out riff after glorious punk rock riff. And they do it with such obvious delight in the primordial power of rock and roll that you can't help smiling as you mosh around your living room.
Critics haven't failed to notice the Murder City Devils' rock and roll enthusiasm either, both on their recordings and at their shows. Indeed for many scribes, the Devils have not only put out a fine album, but have re-invigorated rock and roll, saving straight ahead guitar rock, snotty lyrics, punk rock sneers, and tight black pants held up by those shiny studded belts from the dustbin of cultural history.
Which is a really interesting interpretation, if you ask me, one that speaks volumes about our present pop cultural moment. After all it hasn't been that long since Nirvana's Nevermind was released, launching the so-called "grunge" revolution and propelling rock and roll, its fashions and its political attitudes to the center of popular culture.
Or was it really a revolution? The fact that we have to christen new saviors of rock and roll so soon after Cobain and company's rise implies otherwise. It suggests that grunge's sudden entrance onto the cultural scene was more flash than fire. Not a lasting revolution but the last gasp of a cultural medium that was once the dominant language, in which young people in the capitalist world imagined their desires, expressed their political and social attitudes and seduced each other.
As a language of youth culture, rock and roll remains powerful. Rock bands still move a lot of units, after all, and plenty of young kids still know how to cop a punk rock attitude. But rock and roll has been joined on the pop culture stage by other genres, most notably hip-hop and the various derivatives of electronic dance music. Together, all three presently vie for the attention of the world's youth. This now crowded pop culture stage befits our age, one characterized, as political and social theorists never tire of pointing out, not by the hegemony of one ideology or culture, but by plurality, hybridity and flux.
There's no going back. I doubt we will ever return to the point where one genre of music will dominate youth culture like rock and roll did for most of the post-war period. This state of affairs raises interesting questions about the potential political content of specific youth cultures.
Rock and roll, as the marketing execs at Sub Pop duly note, was once synonymous with rebellion, sexual and otherwise. Yet, if rock and roll is no longer the dominant cultural medium, can it still express youthful dissent and dissatisfaction? Can the other genres -- hip-hop and electronica -- pick up the slack and give adequate voice to the political aspirations of young people? Or have we arrived at a cultural moment in which the plurality of styles and subcultures produces a cultural noise above which no coherent political sentiments can be heard?
I'm not sure what the answers to these questions are. But I think there is a lesson to be learned just in posing them. In this post-rock and roll cultural period, we can no longer count on any genre to be automatically political, to automatically express dissatisfaction with the status quo. Much more so than before, culture has to be made political. This might mean much more work for today's cultural producers, but it might just make for a more explosive youth culture.


Tom Harges (IndieCent)

Viva los Murder City Devils! As bracing as a bottle of gin cracked across your noggin, leather lunged Spencer Moody and crew come busting in full of cathartic violence born of deep, soul shaking traumas. With profound vulnerability feeding their volcanic outbursts, the Devils have all the hardcore energy to power their own electric chair. Empty Bottles' first song, "I Want a Lot Now (So Come On)", is a street fight, part MC5, part Stooges: punishing drums (Coady Willis), soccer chant chorus and defiant yet hopeless singing ("I know it's late/I wanna go home/There's no reason/No reason to go home") set the tone for what follows. Which is get out of my fuckin' way 'cause I got on my "Dancin' Shoes"--word to the wise: hide the women and children. Then there's the excellent fugitive-in-a-GTO drive of "Left Hand Right Hand" (and big props for the "Night of the Hunter" inspiration; if you don't know, you better ask someone-or at least rent it). "Ready for More"'s highway to desolation, the howl at the moon stomp of "Cradle to the Grave"--the sound of loneliness begetting angry hopelessness--and the brothers-in-nihilism exhortation of "Dear Hearts" ("I got a preacher's mouth and a rock 'n'roll heart…Rejoice/We made the right choice") all confirm this band's blood boiling excellence. "Johnny Thunders" is an apt, hero-worshipping tribute ("I say go, go/Go Johnny Thunders/To the drunken city like New Orleans/Kill a man like Johnny….. THUNDERS!"), Dan Gallucci's sinister guitar and Willis' billyclub drums in the fore. "Every Shitty Thing" is an organ haunted lowlife's guilty confession, not asking for absolution but rather pointing an accusing finger back at us. Then theres the stunning "18 Wheels": the organ from Del Shannon's "Runaway" propels this 3:20 epic of blue collar self-loathing and regret ("I never wanted you/To be a sailor's girl/To be a trucker's wife/To be left behind") and Moody taps depths of macho-camouflaged pain as jarring as a pure punk anthem that sounds as if its from 1963. Fury and pathos combine in Empty Bottles' finest moment. Shattering. Power music of the highest proof, Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts (brilliantly primitive production by Jack Endino) is music for driving fast, living hard and taking the consequences without flinching. It's the shame of waking up in the gutter after a bender and the self-destructive need to go out and do it again. It's the curse of making the same bad choices over and over, and the knowledge that you're doing just that. It rocks like a 12 gauge shot off in a blind rage with the grim resolve to face the music. It's the shit.

Andrew Bottomley (Skyscraper)

4 Stars
"The Murder City Devils are a punk rock n’ roll band". That’s what I wrote in my review of their first full-length, and with a second album in less than a year’s time, that statement is more true than ever. The Devils are veterans of punk culture, they have the resumes to prove it (Area 51, Death Wish Kids, Unabombers). But they’ve discovered punk’s nasty little secret, it’s voluptuous hidden mistress, the root of everything punk is: rock n’ roll. And I don’t mean U2 and I don’t mean Def Leppard. When I say rock n’ roll I mean rock n’ roll. I mean The Stooges, I mean the Rolling Stones, I mean the New York Dolls, I mean the Derelicts, and I mean the Dead Boys. I mean music that’s capable of turning the world on it’s head. The Murder City Devils know what it means to be a rock n’ roll band. Just because it’s loud doesn’t mean it’s rock n’ roll. The Devils’ music is a sweltering, scorching pulse of noise and attitude. And soul. Not Marvin Gaye soul, but the kind of soul that comes from a band that gives it’s all each and every night on stage, that comes from a band that lives on the road, that lives for their music and in their music. But they’re not re-living an era gone by, they know it’s almost 1999, that the millennium is just around the corner, they know that rock n’ roll has been exploited and that punk is dying. The Devils are breathing new life into all music, they’re bringing real rock n’ roll to a generation that only knows what it’s been fed. What rock n’ roll was to our parent’s generation, punk rock is to ours. The Murder City Devils are taking the two and making music that just might awaken a whole generation that’s ready to learn what it means to really rock.


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