The members of No Devotion have seen some shit.
Permanence, the band’s brilliant debut album, was released on September 25, 2015 to near universal acclaim and heavy BBC1 radio airplay. That same week, their singer Geoff Rickly (Thursday) was mugged and hospitalized on tour in Germany, the band’s record label collapsed, and they barely made it through the remainder of the scheduled dates.
Nearly a year later, Kerrang awarded Permanence Album of the Year. It was the first time this distinction had been awarded to a record that was already out of print. Half the band took it as a bad omen and decided it was time to hang up their instruments. They began to wonder if the album would serve as their debut and swan song, both.
But in the following months and years, the three remaining members–– Rickly, bassist Stuart Richardson and guitarist Lee Gaze––began to reimagine No Devotion as a personal laboratory for new sounds; a private vault where they could store some of their most personal experiences. Things that must be expressed but that no one ever need hear. For the next four years, the band continued in secret, living the words of Fernando Pessoa: “When I am coming back from a trip, the best part isn’t going through the airport or getting home, but the taxi ride in between: you’re still travelling, but not really.” Creation was for its own sake.
Now, years later, they have decided to open the vault to the world as their long-awaited follow-up No Oblivion, and the results are blinding. The songs are rich in texture, innovative in form and full of pain. But this should come as no surprise. After all, “there are ships sailing to many ports, but not a single one goes where life is not painful” (Pessoa, again.)
No Oblivion was recorded and produced by band member Stuart Richardson, who also produced Permanence, which was mixed with superstar producer Dave Fridmann. The band now has regained control of the rights and masters to that record as well.
From the outset, No Oblivion standout “Starlings” reimagines depression’s Black Dog as an ever-twisting flight of black birds, moving across the sky in endless permutations, rendering life prismatic in its capacity for new hurt. It’s possible that the song’s central question, “does anybody else know how I feel?” may be the most relatable chorus singer Geoff Rickly has ever written. Who says getting sober kills creativity?
Elsewhere, “The End of Longing” propels the album forward with an unnerving contradiction. Here, No Devotion remind us of the stadium-size sing-alongs that their members wrote in past lives. But, embodying Cocteau’s maxim, “a profound person does not rise, he goes deeper”, No Devotion compresses the energy of the dance floor into domestic space as Rickly sings, “the water’s rising in your bedroom // just be calm // there’s a floating life, where nothing can touch you.”
“Love Songs from Fascist Italy” smolders with passion, displaying the confidence of musicians who have collectively amassed ten billion years of performance between them. The band excels here, brimming with the kind of slow burn intimacy that Death Cab For Cutie and Cigarettes After Sex have made careers out of. Lyrically, the song explores the effects of modern capitalism (complete with its echos of classical fascism) on romantic love, found now in check-out lines and communicated through satellites.
At the crescendo of “A Sky Deep and Clear,” Rickly contemplates, with equal parts desperation and yearning, “Are we gonna see a resurrection tonight?”
Well, if No Oblivion is any indication, then the answer is resounding yes.