I've come to the conclusion that I don't care what Josh Caterer sings about, as long as the man just keeps singing. So many people get up in arms when discussing the former Smoking Popes-frontman's new band Duvall, due to the largely Christian influence in the lyrics [and that's being kind]. Caterer has discovered what he deems to be his savior; why do people have a problem with him wanting to praise him? It's no different than bands writing all their songs about girls or about the government - it's just one more topic to discuss. Duvall will not make you convert to Christianity to listen to them, nor will they preach to you at a live show. Duvall simply exists as a vehicle for Josh Caterer to write amazing songs about a topic he holds dear to him - God.
Volume & Density is the eagerly anticipated full-length debut from Duvall, 3 EPs in the making. While I have loved everything Duvall has done up until this point, I wasn't prepared at all for just how wonderful this CD was going to be. From the moment Caterer sings "Don't let your love be wasted on me / I'm no good at all" in opening track "All In Your Hands" until the last refrain of "Jesus never leaves me / what more do I need?", Caterer's stunningly beautiful tenor keeps you riveted to the speakers.
Oh yeah, the music is wonderful, too. New drummer Rob Kellenberger [formerly/currently of roughly every Chicago band ever] really brings a new dynamic to the band - Mike Felumlee could play with the best of them, but he was more-or-less a one trick pony. Kellenberger uses his considerable jazz chops [evidenced in his other band, Colossal] to really propel these otherwise by-the-books pop-punk numbers to a whole new level. His backing vocals are also a welcome addition to the group.
Josh's brother Eli [also formerly of the Smoking Popes] holds down the low end on this recording rather admirably. He doesn't get all fancy, just plays what needs to be played and lets Josh shine. Josh's guitar licks have gotten better since his days in the Popes, and so has his songwriting. I loved the Popes as much as anyone, but those times are over, and I honestly believe Duvall is a better band.
The album is chock full of standouts, from the bouncy "Way Deep Inside" to the groove-oriented "What It Is" to the surefire-Q101 single "Racine," but the real high point is in the 6/8 ballad "Taking Me Home." This track is nothing but sheer emotion and beauty, and it is easily the indie rock wedding song of choice for the next year [just like Jimmy Eat World's "Hear You Me" was a few years ago]. Hearing Caterer moan "You're taking me home / you're taking me home / you're taking me hoooooooome" over and over really gives you goosebumps. It's always hard to pick out one diamond that shines brighter than the other 11, but if I had to, this would be it.
The only downside to the album is that 1/4 of it is already released. The band included the same versions of both "Racine" and their cover of Spandau Ballet's "True" from their "Racine" CD/7" earlier this year, as well as a re-recorded version of "Standing At The Door" from the 2001 EP of the same name [review]. While all three of these songs are wonderful examples of Duvall's melodicism and inherent catchiness, it takes away a bit from the shine of the disc, as any real fan of the band will already own these three tracks.
This tiny fault is really all that keeps this disc from receiving a perfect score. The songs are beautifully crafted, the lyrics deep and personal, the band wholly original. Duvall is here to stay, and to that I say praise the lord.
All In Your Hands
Way Deep Inside