The Gunga Din


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Gunga Din radiate a certain Lower East Side ambience. So, not surprisingly, the music on their second album is ultra-stylized and just a little bit sleazy, seductive, and subversive -- strung-out but penetrating and intellectually alert. It is at least half showmanship -- eerie cabaret painted in noirish tones -- yet it never comes across as anything less than sincere. The band revels in ill-fated love and dirty sex, regret and depression, and other such heat-of-the-night extremes. It is a sulking sort of creepiness, to be sure, yet the music is filtered through such an obvious sense of fun and robust vigor that it makes Glitterati an intensely rewarding listen. Comparisons to both PJ Harvey and the Velvet Underground are certainly apt. Like those artists, Gunga Din exorcise their demons through music that is ripe with emotion but also vaguely cartoonish and detached, as if there is an almost carnivalesque element of parody to the image they put forth, or as if they are not entirely uncomfortable carrying around their particular demons. Siobahn Duffy's mentholated, narcoleptic vocals are glibly sexy and recall the lounge croon of Liz Cox, although to a smokier, sleepier degree. Occasionally, Bill Bronson's voice will craft a dialogue with Duffy's (along the lines of Exene Cervenka/John Doe, or maybe Ike and Tina Turner) that sounds, for all intents and purposes, like doomed love. Musically, Glitterati is pungent, but also very often jaunty and fresh. "Brave New World" wafts past on buoyant Farfisa organ, sparse, irregular snare pats, and spooky, burlesque-worthy slide guitar. And the heavily reverbed rockabilly guitar riffs of "Love Has Another Slave" strongly recall Chris Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing." Like Isaak's (and Combustible Edison's) music, there is something about the entire album that is pure early '60s -- sly and spooky, with dark undertones and an incessant, unnerving grin -- yet it is also unmistakably streamlined for its own time. It is hip, irreverent, and perfectly pitched.

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