Review: Kevin Devine - Instigator

Instigator is in many ways exactly what the name suggests. Produced by John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.), Devine has toned down the screams of “Brother’s Blood” and punching dynamics of the instruments on LP 9 when speaking out against injustice. We’re invited to dance along and toe-tap rather than start a riot. The subject matter of many tracks combined with the upbeat melodies is comparative to trolling your racist uncle Larry whose current affair opinions are spoon fed to him through Fox News.

Sounding completely drained, Devine sings: “Day drunk is what I wanna be, when I’m tired of being free”. Because seriously, who can’t relate to being completely exhausted with all the political drama being thrown at us though every outlet. Regardless of what “side” you are on chances are you’ve had enough and you’re ready to find yourself escaping into something high in alcohol by volume. Controversial opinions have never been taboo for a K.Dev. album, in many ways they’re the back bone. Kevin is one of the hardest working artists in the industry and has never been one to walk on eggshells. We’re talking about an artist who’s more popular songs are anecdotes of protest brought on by living in W. Bush’s post 9/11 America (in New York of all places).

Vintage K.D. vibes are brought out on “Freddie Gray Blues” and hit right in the heart strings. It’s by far the stand out track and deserves your complete attention. Obviously the title references the 25 year old black Baltimore man who was mysteriously found dead while in police custody. The lyrics reference a long list of Devine’s family who are, or have been, involved in law enforcement and how his opinion of our country’s broken system is “bigger than the people I love”. It’s a view point many young Americans share. While older generations of Caucasians paint the façade that racial inequalities are a myth, younger eyes and minds are open to the truth. As Kevin says, “I know not every cop’s a racist murdering cop”. Unfortunately, too many members of our society see pro-black equality as anti-cop and vice versa. Thankfully an artist has spoken out though his music that you can be both pro-cop and still demand reform in our country’s broken justice system.

My personal favorite track is the album’s closer, “I Was Alive Back Then”. It’s a step by step look into Kevin’s life, personal growth, and his relationship with his wife and infant child. Being newlywed myself, I found myself standing in his shoes, singing along to “I was alive back then, now I am again” though each stepping stone of this musical journey. It’s a reoccurring feeling that happens often when you’ve found your other half and I couldn’t be happier to understand exactly where he’s coming from. The closing notes left me wanting just a little more though. I was hoping to find out what the next chapter of growing up entails for me. But I guess that means I have even more to look forward to with LP 10.

If you were as stoked as I was after hearing the single, “No History”, you’re going to absolutely love this album. If you’ve ever been a fan of Kevin Devine at any point in his career you’ll find the element that you were drawn in by within. You won’t find yourself skipping a track and it will be on repeat without a doubt. Instigator is an anthology and the release date being right in the heart of the changing seasons could not have been timed any more perfect.

Instigator is set to be released though Procrastinate! Music Traitors October 21st and is available in a variety of bundles (one even includes coffee!). Click here for more info.

Catch Kevin Devine on multiple tours this fall: