8mm | Between The Devil & Two Black Hearts | Rating: 9/11 |
The best thing about music that makes the head hurt when you try to pigeonhole or assign a definitive genre/label to it is the beauty of being artistic: it’s expression purely on one’s own terms and screw all else. You see, Sean and Juliette Beavan have been around the music block once or twice; if you’re unfamiliar with the scope of what they’ve done with others, that thing called Google is your go-to and I suspect you will be rightfully impressed. But it’s what they do together as 8mm that’s the kick in the ass.
Between The Devil & Two Black Hearts is sexy music for grown ups and the antithesis of “popular music” for the sake of being popular. That’s because it’s sharper, smarter and resonates deeper than radio play with the style lines they blur. While not their first full length album (that would be 2006’s Songs To Live & Die By), Between The Devil & Two Black Hearts is their game upped by a factor of force: less ambient atmosphere, more sultry snap, roar and righteously edgy turns. It’s sleek and heat seeking electro-fused rock with more than enough earthy grit and gangster blue guitar to tied you over until the next Beavan/Beavan project. Even grazing the edges of country and Southern rock, music sense and sensibility get aimed squarely at the head, the heart and the erogenous zones courtesy of 8mm.
Mere seconds into the opening title track, comes the urge to stomp from the heart of the blues with Sean taking first stab at the accusing vocals. On the surface this may mean little to you but for those who are and have been followers of 8mm’s music arc, it’s the wind blowing from East to West instead of West to East and the signaling of true duo status. Sean’s yin, thick acoustic guitar wit matches force with Juliette’s yang and high, not so lonesome wail while comparing lovelorn notes as to who is out wrong-doing who. As if even their individual imagery has lent itself to the essential sound: Sean’s dark to Juliette’s light. No resolution to be found at the end of the blues infected trial by fire, but the listener is put on notice that there is always emotional hell to pay in the end.
The tension and trajectory are established and maintained on Between The Devil & Two Black Hearts because the songs capture the eclectic nature of the music makers and, while the album is a marked upgrade, it never strays outside of their wheelhouse. Instead songs like “The Weight of You” (where Juliette unleashes her seductive anguish) draws blood the moment Sean growls out the first verse and comes close to sucking you dry. I’d be musically deficient if I hadn’t noticed how “You Brought The Fire” reaches under and grabs the deep groove of Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole” by the hair but it’s fine and fitting for Juliette’s subtle cadence and “You can’t go looking for a love / It finds you / I found you” wordplay that speaks volumes.
An album being [only] eight tracks deep could be considered a risk but it pays off for 8mm. Too often in an effort to either blow the mind or compensate for really shitty songs, albums can overstay their welcome by piling on the tracks instead of just focusing on the quality. Quality like the saucy friction in “Kin” where the slide of Sean’s guitar damn near grazes the bone and the jewel “Around The Sun” which gets its percussive trip hop on and is guaranteed to put hands in the air, waving like they just don’t care when 8mm comes to a venue near you.
The missteps are nonexistent and the perceptive choice to cool things down after so much headstrong heat with the slow dancing loss of “Everybody Says” and the industrial romance of “Glimmering” (like Jane Child on Ritalin) redirects the attention from the bedroom/dancefloor and focuses it inward: from killer to kindness just like that. As a whole, the pulse of Between The Devil & Two Black Hearts is based on the pure kinetic energy among Juliette, Sean and Jon. It’s obvious that they aimed higher and whatever label you try to apply to them, keep it simple and just call it fantastic. And sexy.