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Divorcee CD Release Party (Saturday, June 11th, 2005, 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis)
Divorcee at their CD Release Party at the Entry, June 11th - Photo by David de Young (click for larger version)

By David de Young

Divorcee was (and remains) one of the best pop/rock bands in the Twin Cities. Music for Cleanup Men, Breakdown and Inbetweeners, the new offering from Ryan Seitz and band, is likely to be at or near the top of many critics’ lists come year end, including mine.

Rob Van Alstyne, music editor of Pulse Twin Cities, called Divorcee’s 2001 debut release Lovesick “One of the standout local pop albums in recent memory.” And that's by no means hyperbole. Music for Cleanup Men – 13 songs long, if you count the bright, poppy gem “I Know It” hidden about 4.5 minutes after the end of the CD -- is strong enough to give that tremendous debut a run for its money. Identifying “stand out” tracks isn’t necessary on a CD of this quality. It’s easier to identify the sole weak spot, track 5, “Know Your Home,” where a descent into sentimentality rubs me the wrong way for some reason.

Last time I saw Divorcee play the 7th Street Entry was in 2002 during their somewhat controversial second incarnation. I wrote at the time that they sounded great, but I missed the slacker look of frontman/songwriter Ryan Seitz’s original lineup. Chuck Terhark, writing in the now defunct Lost Cause Magazine, suggested that the slouched appearance of the original band lineup had been “easier to root for.” I couldn’t get past it.

Divorcee III consists of a slightly altered lineup from Divorcee II: Jon Herchert is still there on guitar and vocals, and Matt Novachis is still on drums, but Schoen Oslund has replaced Mike Michels on bass, and Corey Eischen has been added on keyboards.

Fittingly, Saturday’s release show started with “Brand New,” track 1 off the new disc. Applause at the end of the first song brought not much acknowledgement from Seitz, whose torso tonight was draped in a Let It Be Records t-shirt. Next came “Twister” with its powerful booming drum start.

“Black Hole,” from the new disc was followed by “Carousel” from Lovesick and Cleanup Men’s album’s tearjerker, “Still Life.” “Jennifer,” from the first album is so Lloyd Cole-like I was surprised to hear from Seitz that he’s not familiar with Cole’s solo work.

Though note for note, the show sounded great, I was still troubled. It was taxing at times. I felt I was watching studio musicians perform on stage: there was impeccable musicianship, but lacking was the kind of band unity that comes from being comfortable performing together as a group and from time on the road.

But as if to assuage my doubts, as the set wore on, the band started to relax, and more people stood up and moved in towards the stage. “Miracles” soared with its slide guitar, and I found myself wondering if it was the 3 years of history I have with this band rather than the performance itself that was the problem.

Seitz spoke at length for the first time in the set saying, “The new record is extremely pretentious, but that’s the way it goes.Buy one and burn one for your friends.” “We know it happens,” he added.

The show took a turn at this point towards a more fluid and loose experience and one easier to enjoy. “Writer” was sweet (another favorite of mine) and “All That You Do” elicited inexplicable screams from the girls in the front row. The rocker “Blow Me” again reminded me of Lloyd Cole.

Towards the end of the set, Seitz thanked Krista Vilinskis from Tinderbox Music “for getting us in every paper,” though it’s obviously Seitz’ first-class songwriting that’s generated all the ink – Krista just made sure all us journalist-types had copies of the disc in plenty of time to help promote the show.

Friday’s set ended with “Lovesick” (probably my favorite Divorcee song of all) and, another pleasant surprise, Divorcee’s ever-popular cover “S.O.S.” by Abba. (Have a listen to it here.)

Divorcee plays at the Varsity Theater, Friday June 24th along with Revolver Modele and Superdanger.