Viva Voce: “From the Devil Himself”
It’s not always the case, but when an album is named after a line from a song on that album, it’s often an indicator that said song may indeed be one of the better, if not best, songs on the album. Back in the ’60s, the album would have been named for the song title itself, but that was when rock was still new-ish and not yet jaded enough to try to find new ways of naming. [Much like the current trend of naming your band a phrase — calling yourself “The Something-or-Others” (go ahead, feel free to use it) just isn’t enough anymore.] XTC made it kind of fun for their fans during the late ’80s, when several successive albums were named — intentionally or not — after a very subtle lyric from the previously released album.
As you may have guessed by now, the 2006 album, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, by Portland, Oregon’s Viva Voce, is named after a line from today’s featured song, “From the Devil Himself.” And as you may also have guessed, it’s one of my favorites on the album — it’s got a great, loose gambol to it, combining a bitter lyric to a jaunty rhythm. That pace picks up quickly as the song becomes more electrified, and simultaneously more menacing in its lyrics. That menace makes the pure Mamas & Papas moment of the background “Yeah!” in the bridge, just after “the devil himself to me,” all that more amusing and enjoyable. (For reference, check out the M’s & P’s’ “Straight Shooter” — which is, musically speaking, kind of a less grim version of this song — or the similar melody in the “joke’s on you” line of “Got a Feelin’.”) For that matter, Viva Voce is sort of the darker, indie The Mamas & The Papas of the late ’90s and 2000s, complete with marriage and divorce. I’m not sure how far you can take that comparison, but I like it anyway.
Viva Voce, made up of then husband and wife Kevin and Anita Robinson (since divorced, and band broken up), targeted the often parasitic nature of the music industry in “From the Devil Himself,” whether it’s the artist motivated purely by money, the music publishers taking too big a share of the profits, or the record labels getting bands to sign their life away. Hence, getting “yr” blood sucked out. (Which, technically, may not be the actual spelling of the song lyric, so maybe my whole first paragraph is a sham designed merely to take up space. If I was making money off the words in that paragraph, you could add my name to that list! But I’m not, so you can’t.)
But you can love the song all the same…