There is a great but untrue story of pre-Clash Joe Strummer going into a bar and spotting Graham Parker. Strummer says he saw the Sex Pistols a week before. Asked what he thought of the band, Strummer replies, "Whole new thing, man."

Hearing Devotchka provides the same exhilarating rush of discovery. This Arizona foursome is fronted by a Ukrainian who reportedly escaped from a Mexican rehab facility (he sings in four languages) and features such unique instrumentation as bouzouki, tuba, bowed vides, glockenspiel and tenor triangle. How It Ends is, of all things, gothic country and western with the emphasis on western. Cuts like "26 Temptations" and "We're Leaving" come across as a beautiful union of Marty Robbins and the Cure. With a voice equal parts Ian McCullough and Roy Orbison, Nick Urata literally wails over this lonely (and lovely) collection of downbeat folk songs. Slightly resembling other desert dwellers Giant Sand and Calexico, Devotchka is nonetheless totally unique. Sometimes originality is either brushed off as novelty or discarded as unlistenable, but in the case of How It Ends, it is praise of the highest order.

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers