Death in Vegas

Scorpio Rising

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For the duo's anticipated third album, Scorpio Rising, Death in Vegas has seemingly adopted the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude, once again drawing from elements of gritty rock, techno repetition, and spacy psychedelia. On first listen, Scorpio Rising (the name is taken from a Kenneth Anger film) feels overly monotonous, as nearly every song quickly finds its groove and sticks with it from start to finish with little variety in the process. However, multiple listens reveal that not only is Scorpio Rising noticeably more upbeat overall than its gothic predecessor, but its diversity comes from the many genres and musical styles that it incorporates. It doesn't hurt either that the album also stars a new cast of guest musicians. Returning to the fold is Dot Allison ("Diving Horses"), who is joined by the likes of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval ("Killing Smile" and "Help Yourself") and Woodbine's Susan Dillane ("Girls" and "23 Lies"), all of whom are delegated to contribute their breathy voices over lush psychedelic soundscapes for an effect that is reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine.

Fittingly handling the reins of the album's more rocking numbers are Oasis' Liam Gallagher and former Jam frontman Paul Weller. Both of their efforts tip their hat to 1960s rock, with the title track highlighting Gallagher as he sings over what sounds like a blend of middle-period Beatles and Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men," while Weller's strident take on Gene Clark's "So You Say You Lost Your Baby" provides the album with some fun and unpredictability. Also unpredictable is "Killing Smile," which is among Death in Vegas' most welcoming and folk-influenced songs. The track also accentuates the unique combination of Sandoval's vocals and the string arrangements of Indian violinist Dr. Subramaniam, who also pair up for the grand "Help Yourself," another of the album's high points. Perhaps the album's best track sounds like something that could have been included on The Contino Sessions --- "Hands Around My Throat," which unleashes a hypnotic syncopated keyboard loop and simple bassline along with a menacing vocal from Adult.'s Nicola Kuperus, a seething version of Blondie as she intones, "Try this and you might find/I'm in your place, I see your face." The only tracks that don't improve with time are "Leather" and "Natja," both forgettable instrumentals that need more than studio trickery to make them interesting. Aside from these missteps, Scorpio Rising suffers a bit from its own ambition, lacking the brooding consistency that made The Contino Sessions feel like a proper album. Scorpio Rising may not have the coherence of its forerunner, but its individual eclectic achievements still add up to an engaging album.

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