I'm not entirely sure what prompted me to download and listen to my first Dirty Vegas song. I don't go clubbing, so I'm fairly sure I hadn't heard it DJ-ed. In fact, I'm embarrassed to say, there's a strong possibility that I got the name confused with Death in Vegas, who have a track on the soundtrack to City of Industry. In any case, an Amazon.Com box arrived at my office with two discs in it- Dirty Vegas (eponymous album) and their mix disc A Night at the Tables. I'll confine my comments to the former, as it is (as far as I can tell) their only collection of original work.

Let's start with the bare information on the album, shall we? The cover of this disc is one that despite its complete trite genericism, you won't forget. It's a headshot of a dazed-looking blonde, hair draped across one eye artfully. It isn't until you look a bit closer that you see her bruised sclera; her slight squint, and the set but slightly parted lips that bespeak of a hard night out.

Tracks:

  1. I Should Know (6:09)
  2. Ghosts (5:18)
  3. Lost Not Found (4:05)
  4. Days Go By (7:08)
  5. Throwing Shapes (6:52)
  6. Candles (3:12)
  7. All Or Nothing (4:55)
  8. Alive (3:21)
  9. 7 AM (6:13)
  10. The Brazillian (3:53)
  11. Simple Things Part 2 (6:43)

The CD is copyright 2002, EMI Records. It was manufactured by Capitol Records, and the disc number is 39986.

There are of course flip methods of pigeonholing a band. I could throw referents at you by telling you that the sound Dirty Vegas achieves on this disc is strongly reminiscent of Stone Roses mixed with Erasure, leavened with a bit of Underworld. However, if you're not familiar with those bands, that won't do you much good, I suppose.

It's not at all surprising that at least two singles off this album (I Should Know, Days Go By) have become club anthems. There is a great deal of danceability in here; DV are fond of long lazy tonal loops, with some reversidrums, beatboxen and other modified percussion to hang the tracks off of. The songs, however, tend towards a sweeping sort of curve that is mindful of that moment of exhaustion on the club floor where you are looking at the ceiling (mostly), arms spread perhaps, swaying in great arcs roughly to the time of the current loop because you're unable to work up the energy to do anything more directed and you hope to God the next track is something upbeat or you're sure your calves are going to curl up and crack, your knees having longs since succumbed and left you lying on the sweat/drink/lightstick littered floor with nothing left but the hope you'll melt through it before you're found.

Ahem.

Sorry. Back. Anyhow. The album opens with I Should Know, a 6-minute-plus experiment in trying desperately to make your wordless half moan/half song match tone with the singer. The track starts out soft, offering a brief tease before the percs kick. After they do, it sounds fairly forgettable, not much here to think about; but the good part is that rather than losing that major-key, hopeful beginning, that same melody and verse is laid over the rhythm in a prayer for benediction which goes on through the whole reverb-ed damn thing.

I'll show you things that you've never seen / I know places you've never been / where the grass isn't green / because I (yeah, I) should know

Ghosts starts with some relatively breathy synthpop-isms, complete with the hint of echoing voices in the background, before settling down to a fairly workmanlike vocal of forgettable lyrics strung across the top of the rhythm track. An intermezzo, in other words. The video takes one simple trick of reality and works up an acceptable vibe on it over the course of its few minutes.

Lost Not Found is where the bass comes out to play. The vocals here sound an awful lot like lightly-vocoded Depeche Mode...the whole song is really one vocal loop, one melody loop, and one bass loop, obsessively explored. Which is fine, some nights.

Days Go By, one of their most remixed tracks, is really a club track par excellence. The tonals which start it could have come from an Underworld teaser track, and indeed, the opening is redolent of Moaner, but it kicks into an '80s sort of synth-bongo before choosing to blow your mind. The loops here, too, are simple; but that's not an indictment. Vocoding is back, and fab; there's an intro vocal of nothing but, and the entire track's words are really used as naught more than a melody loop, to the point where the words are an afterthought. Very, very Dark and Long.

Days go by and still I think of you / Days when I couldn't live my life without you / without you / without you

Throwing Shapes brings out some harsher synth tones, a bit of noise into the mix, but titrated in with care. Candles has the agonized moaning of Stone Roses at their best; the instruments a backdrop for a loop of regret/anger/pain muted by fatigue.

I could go on, but I won't. if this doesn't describe it to you, then you'll need to just hear it yourself. If it does and it doesn't sound attractive, well, chacun a son gout!

In case I haven't made this clear, this music needs to be listened to at extremely high volume. That is, VERY LOUD. I find it helps me maintain the groove at high speed on rainy streets driving a small rear-engined car.

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