Seattle’s Murder City Devils consisted of singer Spencer Moody, bassist Derek Fudesco, guitarists Dann Gallucci and Nate Manny, keyboard player Leslie Hardy and drummer Coady Willis; Gabe Kerbratz, the band’s roadie, was also considered a member, despite his non-contribution to the writing or performing of the group’s music, which contains elements of punk, garage rock and straight-up good time rock and roll. The lyrics reflected the hard-drinkin’ lifestyles of the band members, documenting in great detail the sadness of being a drunk fuck-up. The songs on the self-titled debut, one of which details the cheap thrill of watching Iggy Pop cut himself with broken glass while performing with the Stooges, can best be described as “brawling.” Though production values are severely lacking, the band’s bravado makes up for the sonic limitations.
In 1998, the Murder City Devils recruited Hardy, who briefly played bass for Hole, as their full-time keyboard player and released Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts (also referred to as Broken Bottles, Empty Hearts in the liner notes and cover art). The lyrics deal chiefly with women, drinking, sailors and truckers, subjects the band would return to again and again in later years. Particularly drinking. And another celebration of rock and roll excess, this time glorifying the seedy death of Johnny Thunders in a New Orleans hotel.
After a brief hiatus, the Murder City Devils returned to action in 2000 with In Name and Blood, the artwork of which displays photographic evidence of each bandmember’s senseless murder. Sample lyric: “I would’ve slit my wrists if it wasn’t for rock and roll.” Enough said. Around this time the band appeared in David Larson’s independent film The Edge of Quarrel and For the Cash, “a rock and roll action comedy” also starring Gas Huffer, Botch and members of Sunny Day Real Estate. There’s also a 2001 documentary about the Devils entitled Rock & Roll Won’t Wait, which provides an inside look at a year in the life of “one of Seattle’s most notorious bands,” according to the movie’s promo material, and features some of the worst intoxicated karaoke singing ever filmed.
Following the Thelema EP in 2001, Hardy split and the band broke up. Utilizing catchy hooks and more sophisticated songwriting, Thelema was a major departure, and fans accused the Devils of losing their edge. Pish! The swan song R.I.P., cut at the band’s final show, Halloween 2001, is as fierce as ever, a drunken sloppy mess of the sort to remind jaded fuckers of the awesome power of rock and roll. (The same show was issued on DVD in 2005, with an amusing commentary track by Moody and Merchbot 2000, who manned the band’s merchandise table on tour.)
Post-breakup, the members started numerous bands, at least one of which was far more successful than the Devils had ever been: Fudesco’s Pretty Girls Make Graves. Other resulting outfits so far include Big Business, Broadcast Oblivion, Dead Low Tide, Smoke & Smoke and Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death. The Murder City Devils briefly reformed in 2006 and 2007 to play one-off concerts.