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Danny Walker: Press

Handsome Devil
Fully Automatic

By Kevin Wierzbicki

This quartet is from Orange County but you'd never know it by listening to “Pretty Pictures,” the opening cut on Fully Automatic . Of course an O.C. base doesn't mean the band has to play ska-pop, but “Pretty Pictures” is straight outta New York City, rocking the streets like the late, great D Generation. Next is a Motley Crue-like anthem called “Getting You Off,” and after Handsome Devil has proven they can kick ass like both coasts they're free to explore their own sound on the rest of the album.
He has a very tight back-up band but the hero here is singer Danny Walker who also writes all the words and music. Walker has a kit bag overflowing with hooks whether he's singing about an excessive lifestyle (“Slow Down”) or pleading with a lover (“Stay”). In fact most of Walker's stuff utilizes two hooks, one vocal and one from pushy guitars. It's surprisingly solid all the way through.
Inside Track: Handsome Devil 2004. Handsome Devil – Love & Kisses From the Underground - GO TO SITE FOR ARTICLE(S)
Handsome Devil
Love & Kisses from the Underground

Maybe it's something in the water? There seems little other explanation for why Orange County, California should have spawned such a ragged bouquet of extremely talented and listenable bands that hit prime-time looking and smelling like an indie act but without a lot of the boring grind that actually goes with being indie. No Doubt, Lit and most recently, Lit label mates, Handsome Devil have all, seemingly, hit the ground running with albums that were tight and directional from the beginning of their careers.
Handsome Devil in particular seems to have a strong handle on who they are in their first album, Love and Kisses from the Underground. Co-produced by Lit-nik Jeremy Popoff, despite the overflow of talent, shared hometown and the fact that they both record on Dirty Martini, Love and Kisses is a very different animal from Lit's recently released Atomic. Though both bands are manned by four slightly disreputable-looking white boys -- three brunets apiece and one spikey-haired blond -- Handsome Devil -- at least here in the early stages -- controls a darkly, quirkily humorous post-punk sound. With obvious nods to the diverse likes of Elvis Costello, The Beatles via Oasis, Stiff Little Fingers via Green Day and The Beastie Boys, on Love and Kisses Handsome Devil is forging their own memorable sound.
While Handsome Devil is no one's idea of an indie band -- you can't call yourself that when you have RCA distribution out of the gate -- there's a strong indie feel to almost every aspect of Love and Kisses from the Underground, from the slightly low-grade-appearing band photos -- horrid grain, sharp shadows, bad lighting and all -- to the jejune typography and even the kitschy band logo. There's something very homemade about Love and Kisses, something that says garage even though there are no tire marks or oil spots anywhere in evidence.
Handsome Devil formed early in 2000 and Dirty Martini signed them not long after, sending them on the road opening for Sprung Monkey and Zebrahead. According to lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Danny Walker, the band's live performance is responsible for the album's controlled but raw sound. "We knew what we were aiming for," he says on the band's Web site. "We wanted our record to sound huge and, at the same time, still have the raw energy of our live show."
Love and Kisses is deliciously diverse. The album's first single, "Makin' Money," is a Beastie Boys-flavored anthem to modern materialism:
I get it, it's funny,
You know I'm makin' money
Not summer, but sunny,
Cool like the Easter Bunny
You get it, I'm on it, I got the milk and honey
You make me laugh -- Ha-Ha-Ha
The first single could just as easily have been "Samurai," whose lyrics make you wonder how on earth they pulled off the Wal-mart approved "clean" version of Love and Kisses from the Underground. If you know how they handled the chorus in that clean version, let me know because I'm curious. Walker spends a lot of time in the song singing the words: "I'm a fuckin' Samurai from the Darkside." And, as banal as that sounds, it really works on "Samurai," a humorous musical journey to spiritual freedom. ("In Nagasaki, I'm drinking Saki And watching Hockey in my jockeys."
The opening bars of "Back Into Action" evoke the most operatic of the 1980s hair bands, then morphs rapidly into the post-punk feel that Handsome Devil personify and inhabit on much of the album.
All of the songs on Love and Kisses were written by Walker, whose energy was also largely responsible for putting the band together. His leadership is perhaps what's giving Handsome Devil its early even profile, despite a first album that consists of wildly divergent material. What comes across is solid -- and sometimes inspired -- musicianship throughout Love and Kisses, overlaid on material that is as consistent in its excellence as it is varying in style and influence. The lyrics hold it all together: always interesting, sometimes memorable and never overworked.
Love and Kisses from the Underground is a delight and one of the most memorable debuts of 2001. | December 2001