January 31, 2008
Tell Me What It’s Worth
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Legend has it that when Dev Hynes was born his mother placed a banana skin at the entrance to her holiest of holies so that he could come into the world executing a classic comedy pratfall.
OK, so it’s a legend that we made up, but it’s probably true, given Hynes’ seemingly pathological need to imbue his every action with puerile absurdity. Calling your band Test Icicles is unlikely to see you ushered into the hallowed pantheon of rock greats, as is posing on all your solo single covers dressed like a berk, usually holding a ukulele. When bands are openly humorous it’s usually because they are what musical theorists term ‘shit’ – They Might Be Giants, anybody? – but ‘Tell Me…’ offers the conclusive proof that young Devonte is nudging genius. It’s a lovely, utterly simple slice of tear-strafed, heartbroken troubadour pop – little more than a strummed acoustic guitar and the sound of one man musically weeping.
The chorus is sweetened by the giddy trill of the distinctly marvellous Emmy ‘The Great’ Moss, but it’s Dev’s heartfelt, slightly pained delivery that will endear it to the nation’s romantics, as opposed to the bizarre lyrics – it’s fair to say that this is the first love song to contain the line, “Negroes turn a blueish grey when they’re dead”. Even so, it’s not an exaggeration to say that ‘Tell Me…’ is damn near to being country (you could call it ‘urban country’, but then that wouldn’t make sense) and it wouldn’t be out of place on a Glen Campbell album. And that is some compliment. As if to complete Mr Lightspeed’s winning hand, it should be noted that the video, which sees Dev doing a ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’-style march through the less salubrious part of Soho with a large coterie of ladies trailing in his wake, is rather fantastic too. And not funny in the least.
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