You have to feel sorry for Snow Patrol. Having found success with an album full of songs just like Good Lies, the opener of the Notwist’s fifth LP, they find themselves harangued in every indie quarter for being a Coldplay-humping mammy’s band. The Notwist will suffer no such fate; it is, and always has been, Radiohead with whom the Notwist receive most comparisons. Sonically, there is not much similarity between the two. Yet the German quartet’s dabblings in ambient and jazz, their Pyramid Songs allow them leeway for, say, their Fake Plastic Trees. It probably helps that they used to be a death metal band too.
The Notwist perfect their multi-faceted appeal on this album. Their last outing, 2002’s Neon Golden, was a masterpiece of electronic textures and composition (which is more exciting than it sounds, trust me). The Devil, You + Me brings the same ingredients to the mix, but adds in decidedly heavier doses of acoustic guitar, breathy vocals and inconsequential lyrics. It is on the more electronically-based songs, especially the morose On Planet Off, that the band offer the most compelling listening experiences. The more pop-orientated numbers, such as the driving Good Lies and the upbeat Boneless, are a great deal more conventional and indie radio-ready, giving the album a something-for-all-the-family appeal.
It is this new-found accessibility, I fear, that may lose The Notwist as many fans as they make with this record. Those who loved Neon Golden, who squeezed every second out of it, will be hard pressed to find as much longevity in the Devil, You + Me. Having taken six years to create it, zealots will not be best pleased that there is little in the way of musical progress to be had here. The uninitiated, on the other hand, may well just find a new favourite band.