Death in Vegas: The Contino Sessions Death in Vegas 
The Contino Sessions
[Time Bomb/Concrete]
Rating: 3.9
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Death in Vegas want to be Primal Scream so bad it hurts. Of course, you can't bitch about that. If your idol is that good, who's gonna stop you? The problem occurs when, despite your best intentions, you don't really understand how Primal Scream tracks work. DJs Richard Fearless and Tim Holmes (aka Death in Vegas) can, at times, come up with some interesting arrangements-- their tracks are replete with distorted guitars, strident, sampled horns, and vocals that float high above the fray. But they miss the vital component in the formula: the bassline. Think about it. "Slip Inside This House," "Rocks," and "Kowalski," despite sporting very disparate sounds, are all supported by the sturdy structural backbone of an excellent underlying bassline. It's the lone constant in Primal Scream's best work.

Without the aid of gripping basslines as an anchor, the vast majority of these tunes drift along aimlessly. Worse yet, Fearless and Holmes seem to think they can win you over with sheer length and monotony-- most of these tracks exceed the five minute mark. Even admirable production values can't disguise the fundamental weakness in these songs. They simply fail to engage. They lack bite. If you really want to sound like Primal Scream, you've got to be prepared to whip out your tool and slap listeners with it until they cry, not just fiddle with it like the knobs on your mixer.

This is dangerous ground Death in Vegas are venturing into; they're on the verge of carving out a bad niche for themselves as the world's first twatronica band. But as much as we'd like to see such wonderful, entirely valid music be recognized as a genre unto itself, we'd rather not have to see a lovable bunch like Death in Vegas at ground zero of that particular hydrogen bomb of shite. Let the Indigo Girls go techno first.

But this isn't to say that the album doesn't have its moments. It actually does have one. "Aisha" bursts through the speakers with such ferocity as to make you drop the saucepan of bathtub crank you just brewed up all over your bisexual girlfriend's Cocker Spaniel. The song encapsulates everything that's great about rock in one incessant riff, even if it does sound ripped off from Ted "The Million Dollar Man" DiBiase's WWF entrance music. A guest appearance from Iggy Pop has never been more welcome. Fearless and Holmes likely felt bad for him after his hilarious Avenue B release.

But, alas, aside from "Aisha," there's precious little of interest to be dug up on The Contino Sessions. Occasionally, such as on "Death Threat," a chunky slab of guitar raises the tune above mediocrity. Yet more often than not, the listening experience ranges from bland to painful. Ironically enough, Mr. Primal Scream himself, Bobby Gillespie, shows up on "Soul Auctioneer," only to be lumped into the painful category. Coming off like Joe Strummer on angel dust, he utters the lines, "You've broken your wings/ You've lost your demon," six times in the span of thirty seconds. For our money, we're betting Dick Fearless clubbed him, dragged him into the studio, put a gun to his head, and forced him to sing like a strangled cat.

Death in Vegas wants to be a scary rock band. As such, they've crafted a scary album with scary guitars, scary beats, scary distortion, and scary Iggy Pop. But Death in Vegas isn't even a rock band. It's two pasty English DJ-type guys and some session musicians. This fact doesn't disqualify them from their God-given right to make scary music. They've got scattered pieces of fright on this record, but they left the talent back in the terrifying netherworld of dance clubs packed with undulating attractive people and brightly-lit studios. In the end, The Contino Sessions adds up to a Primal Scream album without the menacing edge, which leaves us with just a Scream.

-Beatty and Garrett