If the world has enough of one thing, it's guys with guitars—and, subsequently, plenty of Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst acolytes. That doesn't bode well for Kevin Devine, a songwriter who occasionally sounds just like them, but Split The Country, Split The Street works remarkably well.
Devine gained experience as a songwriter fronting Miracle Of 86, his former punk-leaning indie-rock band. But he always did solo work, which provided an outlet for his quieter, mostly acoustic songs. The space between the two narrowed as time progressed, though; this, Devine's third solo album, matches quieter moments ("Keep Ringing Your Bell," "Haircut") with rollicking songs that sound like Miracle Of 86 ("Cotton Crush," "No One Else's Problem"). Throughout, Devine avoids singer-songwriter clichés and generic turns of phrase. On "No Time Flat," he laments the current political climate, but admonishes himself as much as the Bush administration: "Reform don't work, I think it's time we tried revolt / but I don't got the guts to jump up and go first / so I just shout until my throat hurts."
Devine's wordiness occasionally gets clumsy as he tries to squeeze too much into small spaces, but it's better to have too much to say than not enough. He has a knack for knowing when a song stalls, and he rescues a few here with dynamic, subtle mood shifts, a talent that, when combined with his others, helps him stand out in a world saturated by guys with guitars.