When you’re nearly two decades into a music career, it can be hard to make an album that’s new. For Andrew Hung, his latest collection of songs, Devastations, will likely be processed by listeners as a record where the U.K.-based artist leans into pop conventions at odds with the psychedelic droning of his previous outfit Fuck Buttons, or the weird-out soundtrack he did for The Greasy Strangler, a film John Waters almost certainly loves. It also feels like a more fully realized version of his debut solo album Realisationship—a brink-of-chaos electronic record showcasing the artist’s frantic-Joe-Strummer vocals—as well as an homage to the alt-dance lineage of Depeche Mode.
But at the same time it succeeds at what is very likely the project’s main goal: removing the listener from this planet—our dumb little politics and life-saving hobbies, our irritating music criticism and cool psychedelic drone albums—and tossing us into a vast celestial expanse. “I interpret the album as leaving the orbit of a solar system and finding myself in a limbo between worlds,” Hung shares of the project, confirming Devastations’s fairly transparent status as an escape vessel from the routines of quarantine and, for Hung, personal creative habits.
With the record out today, Hung talked a bit about each track on Devastations and how the record as a whole serves as a jumping off point for a new chapter in the songwriter’s career. Stream it below, and read on for his words.
Jim Hosking [director of The Greasy Strangler, An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn, and Hung’s “Promises” video] comes round to my house often (though I haven’t seen him since lockdown started). He had the idea of this track being an introduction to the album. I can’t remember the word he used, but it was a fancy Italian word I think.
I think this album is about moving on from the past, for me, and for a while I’d nobbled myself for misguided reasons. Or perhaps for guided reasons…but I didn’t allow myself to use noise for a long time because I felt that I explored that in this other band I was in. So this track was kinda like, “Here I am again.” I love how triumphant it sounds.
This was the first track I wrote where I thought this could set the album off. I originally intended this track to be the introduction, but as often happens, other plans took shape. Again, this track points to the noise returning. As I normally do, the track was written first before the song, and when it came to the song I felt it could have a relentlessness like Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche.” I felt I could get away with writing a repeating verse, but a kinda chorus did emerge after all. I interpret the album as leaving the orbit of a solar system and finding myself in a limbo between worlds. This goes in line with the opening line of the album, which is “Burning stars line the skies with sombre whispers.” Stars burn brightest when they’re about to die, and so it’s a sombre realization that some of the stars we see in our midnight skies are probably dead already.
This is one of the earliest tracks I wrote for the album which you can kinda hear; it’s very raw and emotional. I find with my songs that they’re often dialogues or mirrors with the inner unconscious. I find when I delve into those depths there is very little distinction between the outside and inside at that point. I guess this song is the supernova, the point of explosion.
The aftermath. The wandering of the limbo. I originally wrote this song as an imagination of my dad’s treacherous journey on a three-month boat from Hong Kong to England, but then I found out that he actually got the plane. But regardless, when we talk or write about others, we’re inevitably writing about ourselves. Want to know what someone’s like? Ask them to describe their pet, or their mother, or their best friend and they’ll inevitably describe themselves. So this is the limbo song, the hero is wandering in the center of the ocean of his discontent.
This is the dove returning with a twig; the flood is subsiding at last. I think this is about the stories we tell ourselves and trip ourselves up on on the way to realization.
This is the newest track written for the record, along with “Light.” I think this one has an acknowledgement of the complexities we can find ourselves in and that being OK. I think it’s telling if we’re letting nuance into our understandings. Maybe, I dunno.
Maybe this one is about faith. It’s really easy to have faith when everything is going swimmingly, and so the real test is when everything is shit. I’ve started trying to pay more attention to how I feel without wanting to do anything about it. I guess I’m at a point when I can do that now. Like the writings of Lao Tzu, “He who rushes ahead doesn’t go far.”
This was a late edition to the album. I was finishing songs up and this one popped up, which I thought would be an excellent ender to the album. It’s a very old track, but back when I wrote it, I wasn’t able to finish it because I didn’t have the technical nous. I did a lot of searching during the making of this album, a lot of tripping up and falling over. I kept trying to say goodbye, and eventually the last word of the album is an actual goodbye.