Crossing Guards
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Crossing Guards

Band Rock Pop


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"CD review "Revenge of the Tall Boys""

A few weeks back, I was inspired by a
Tom Hallett ‘Round the Dial piece urging
(or was it threatening?) us locals to support
local music by going to more shows.
The timing was good, I’d just gone into
hiatus with one of my bands and like
many musicians, just being in a band
means less time to get out and see other bands... except for, of course, the ones you
shared a bill with.
Last summer (2008), I played guitar in
The Mad Ripple’s band at an Eclectone
showcase so I got a chance to see Martin’s
new pop rock band Crossing guards and
they did have an instant appeal.
I’ve enjoyed Martin’s acoustic music
and amiable charm for several years, seeing
him at various Hootenannies and
clubs like the 331.
The first time I saw him perform may
have been at the Pantages Theatre for a
tribute to Dylan’s “Blood On the Tracks”
album with the band who appeared on
those emotionally bloody tracks that were
recorded in Minneapolis.
Martin sang “Lily, Rosemary And The
Jack Of Hearts” and I’ll never forget it. It
was very impressive!
A quick mention that Devaney is the
founder of Eclectone Records. Anyone
who has put time and love into a music
venture can appreciate what type of dedication
a record label must require.
Especially a record label such as
Eclectone which focuses on the independent
spirit, a healthy sign of local solidarity.
“Revenge of the Tall Boys” is, first off,
a great guitar driven power pop record
that gets better with each listen. It’ll get
you through a rush hour better than anything
from AC/DC which causes nothing
but high speeds and wreckless driving.
“Revenge of the Tall Boys” was produced
by Sean Hoffman, who also plays bass
and drums on the album. This is a masterpiece
of great guitar driven power pop.
Textured with keyboards (mainly by
long time scene vet Eric Kassel) and
chock full of killer guitar hooks by Eric
Kassel, Steve McPherson and Josh Peterson, this is definitely music to my
Martin adds some guitar throughout but
his main role as Head Crossing Guard is
to lead you safely across the street of
despair with his anthemic vocal delivery
and a few well-delivered karate kicks in all
the right places.
Leading off with “Get Serious”, the
singer leads the attack ... we’re gonna jam,
and we’re gonna get serious, all of us, and
he’s serious, he’s looking for followers
and participants. Here’s the invitation:
Who’s coming along
to the late night jam?
Yeah, that’s the plan.
We’ll get cheap food
and something to drink.
We made up our minds to go for broke
and that’s no joke.
All lyrics and music was written by
Martin with the exception of “Smoke and
Mirrors”, a gorgeous song with Guided
By Voices guitar arpeggios, lyrics by
Martin and music written by the band.
The record continues in the guitar hook
pop vein with another instant classic “51
Weeks Ago”.
The hooks don’t stop, up next is “Pretty
Little Problem” which sports an attractive
Elvis Costello feel, especially in the chorus.
This one needs to be on the radio too
... is it? It should be.
“Echo” ... have mercy you guys, quit
being so melodic, your tunes will run
through my head forever now ... no worries,
I don’t mind, I need some new ones
to replace some old ones. Did you know
Devaney plays sax? Damn it sounds so
RIGHT! Very nice.
Side B of this CD (just play along
folks) begins with “Untouchable” and steers the band in a different musical
Wow, an acoustic guitar on “Guitar Pick
Hot Air Balloon”! I was just ready to burn
mine when this gem comes up, soft as a
pillow, and takes this one to the corners of
your head.
Okay, stop it, an acoustic guitar sounding
very lo-fi and cassette-ish on the
“Ballad of Oliver Pines” ... are you trying
to win me over or what? Beautiful melody
here, soothing, very uplifting.
“Forecast Speaks”, I think the forecast
speaks for itself, so does the kalimba on
this groovy number. Partly sunny with a
possible chance of Elmore James returning
like Lazarus to jam on this one.
Oh man, why does this record end so
early? So that it leaves you wanting more,
of course ... “Another Paper Breakdown”
closes this fine record leaving the listener
hungry for more Crossing Guards! Please,
make it soon, I love this record and this
band (plus it includes a sticker). Check it
Also, check out Crossing Guards LIVE
this Wednesday night as they open for Ike
Reilly at First Avenue on Thanksgiving Eve!
— Joe Fahey - Round the Dial Magazine

"Crossing Guards Pave Way For Shameless Fun"

After nearly a decade of acoustic guitar strumming and soul-baring on the local scene, Martin Devaney had had enough. The time for hushed introspection was over—and an urge to kick out feel-good rock jams was just beginning.

"I had kind of reached my quota on writing confessional songs for a while," explains the 29-year-old St. Paul singer-songwriter of the inspiration for his rock-in-the-name-of-fun band Crossing Guards. "I started writing tunes that had a different feel to them, with the idea that it would be a band and not my own name. Writing from that perspective felt very different. All of a sudden I felt like I could speak in a new way. The songs didn't have to be about my deal with some girl."

The songs on Crossing Guards' debut album, Revenge of the Tall Boys, particularly on its rollicking Guided By Voices-reminiscent first half, are about just how much fun it is to play music cranked up to 11 with a backing group of good friends. Devaney's reedy voice will never be his strongest asset, but the emphatic fervor with which he sings atop ringing hooks on top-flight power-pop tunes like "Echo" constitute his finest vocal hour. "We recorded the bulk of the record in the dead of winter during a time where I was reading a book all about the Beatles' recording sessions and listening to a ton of Oasis," says Devaney. "In my head that's where I was at; I was Oasis in my mind." The power of rock has clearly energized Devaney, as anyone who caught one of his beer-swilling, karate-kick friendly gigs with the five-piece band can attest.

"A lot of these tunes I couldn't actually sing very well if I was having to play guitar live at the same time," explains Devaney, who performs sans six-string with his latest band (which includes bassist Sean Hoffman, guitarists Eric Kassel and Steve McPherson, plus drummer Judd Hildreth). "I've surprised myself with what I'm able to belt out when I can just focus on the singing. It's fun being up there without a guitar. You do have to think a lot more about stage presence. I always make sure to have a couple of 'stage beers' up there as support just so I can sneak off to a corner and drink while a guitar solo's happening if I don't have any other ideas. It's fun getting to exploit the whole frontman thing."

The primary catalyst in aiding Devaney's big rock makeover is scene veteran Sean Hoffman, who has played with everyone from Mark Mallman to Faux Jean, and initially linked up with Devaney playing bass to support his folkier material. "I remember when he first came to me and was playing some of the Crossing Guards songs and gently strumming. I was like, 'No! All down strokes—and faster!'" recalls Hoffman, while Devaney sits alongside him, struggling to suppress a grin.

"The band started with just the two of us as a recording project," recalls Hoffman, who produced Revenge of the Tall Boys and played most of its musical parts. "I wasn't working at the time, so I was just obsessive about it. I would tinker with it all night—throwing in church bells, whatever—and then Martin would come back the next night and listen to it. Usually his first reaction was to make a face like he smelled something bad, but then he would live with it for a while and end up liking it."

Hoffman's tinkering, especially on the album's slower-paced but more sonically ambitious second half, elevates Revenge of the Tall Boys from a shamelessly fun rock romp to a truly special record. Tunes like "Another Paper Breakdown" showcase Devaney at his witty best ("You say I'll eat my words, well there's a lot to digest") while supplementing his homespun melodies with elements new to his music (washes of ambient keyboard, snippets of sampled orchestration, heavy harmony overdubs) that hit just right.

"This was the first time where I was working with a more collaborative approach and having to really think about making a record as opposed to just being a singer-songwriter banging something out," admits Devaney. "I had never felt comfortable enough before to try and play some guitar licks, to do harmony vocals. Getting outside the comfort zone was the whole point." - City Pages


A band’s debut show usually never works out as well as the band hopes. Every so often on VH1 or MTV they show film of early shows from bands that have been called up to the bigs, and it is almost always cringe-inducing. Friday night, Crossing Guards were not destined to join that category. Featuring musicians from other bands and other occupations altogether, the band features (mostly) solo artist Martin Devaney, local writer and member of Big Trouble, Steve McPherson, Sean Hoffman and a couple of others. Crossing Guards were both lo-fi and a bit more catchy than you’d think. They were a little bit ‘60s pop and a lot like a more fleshed out, less willfully obtuse version of Guided By Voices (read: more easily accessible).

Devaney, manning the mic without his guitar, was free to do his best Robert Pollard impression, with the random high kicks and beer chugging – even his shaggy, wavy hair looked a bit like Uncle Bob’s if you squinted just right. They played a fairly long set for an opening band, but hardly anyone noticed or, more importantly, cared. When it became apparent that the opening band actually had their stuff together, the crowd actually got into it and slowly meandered closer to the stage instead of just standing toward the back and checking their watches – this was the ultimate Minneapolis sign of approval. -

"Father Hennepin Park, July 4"

I'd been meaning to check out the Crossing Guards, a new project spearheaded by Martin Devaney, ever since I interviewed Devaney earlier this year and he described his new group as "more of a clubhouse than a band...having a bunch of beers and just banging out some fun rock music." Those familiar with Devaney's solo music know that he can tend to be a bit melancholic at times in his solo folk music, so I relished the opportunity to see a more upbeat Devaney in action.

The Crossing Guards were everything I'd hoped. Devaney was joined by Sean Hoffman, Judd Hildreth, Eric Kassel, and Steve McPherson, and the group rambled through their songs with the loose camaraderie of a gang of old friends. Which isn't to say that the band was sloppy, because they weren't -- but they played with a relaxed air that stressed fun over perfection. Devaney wore aviator glasses throughout the set, despite the fact that the sun had gone down and it was almost time for fireworks, and he punctuated his lyrics with the occasional leg kick and back and forth swagger. -


"Revenge of the Tall Boys" full length. Oct. 2009.

Echo, Smoke and Mirrors, and 51 Weeks Ago receiving local airplay.



Originally a recording project between Twin Cities songwriter Martin Devaney and Sean Hoffman, Crossing Guards grew into a live outfit that quickly booked headlining gigs at Twin Cities clubs and festivals, playing to thousands of people over the course of several months.
"Revenge of the Tall Boys" is their debut record, though everyone involved are veterans of the Twin Cities scene. Besides Devaney, the band includes Eric Kassel (The Magnolias), Steve McPherson (Big Trouble), Judd Hildreth (Valet, Duplomacy), and Hoffman (Mark Mallman, Faux Jean, Divorcee)