Review: Dr. Devito - "1.7.13"

1.7.13 cover art
Dr. Devito - Wheelin' and Dealin'
(2013 Dojo Dad)

While browsing BandCamp today, I think I may have found one of the purest embodiments of lo-fi music to date. It's Wheelin' and Dealin', the first in a series of live practice sessions recorded straight to cassette by Bakersfield's Dr. Devito. Each of these recordings will be released in an extremely limited edition of one copy, recorded over a misfit cassette unearthed at a thrift store. This session, for example, is taped over the soundtrack to a corny Bollywood movie. It's a resourceful and creative idea, reminiscent of how 80s singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston was reported to have subscribed to mail-order tapes from preachers just for recording purposes. Not to say that the music contained in this tape is overshadowed by its creative packaging. This is some first-rate garage rock delivered by a crew of talented tunesmiths.

Judging by the 7 songs included on this tape, Dr. Devito is one of those bands that must be seen live. If you don't live close enough to Bakersfield to catch one of their shows, Wheelin' and Dealin' is the closest you'll get to a private set played in your very own home. It's a warts-and-all recording; a ramshackle rhythm section, sounding as if it's just barely holding the jams together like scotch tape, is the main attraction here. Similar to fellow surf-pop acts like La La Vasquez or early Beach Fossils, the loose drums are pounded with primitive energy, crash cymbals and snares flooding the mix, giving Dr. Devito's sound a warbling, trebly quality. The highly reverbed guitars simply gloss the rough edges of the percussion like a coat of Vaseline.

Structurally, the songs here are little more than controlled chaos, starting conventionally with a few verses of Jacob Ninomiya's Lou Reed-esque drawl backed by the band's usual twangy sound, but suddenly devolving into frenetic jams, veering off in a new direction each time you think you've got your mind wrapped around the tangled mess. It's quite a thrilling listen, not unlike a roller coaster ride. I also enjoy the way the band incorporated the original sounds of the cassette they recorded over. Hearing Indian show tunes right after listening to some fast-paced surf music can really throw one for a loop. Being able to eavesdrop on the chatter among the musicians between songs is also a welcome bonus, just another component adding to the "live show" feel. This is the way music is supposed to be listened to. (By the way, the physical copy of this tape is still up for grabs, as is a free download. I'm saving the tape for you, lucky reader! Buy it, you won't be sorry.)

Listen to the tape below...