Death…In…Vegas? Yes you all know the name, but perhaps only few can identify songs to band. For me, Death in Vegas slip in quite neatly alongside such 90s outfits like Underworld, Massive Attack, The Prodigy, Orbital, and Groove Armada. Vegas leaders Richard Fearless and Tim Holmes have, since the release of 1997’s Dead Elvis, continued to produce a dark psychedelic electronica with haunting, mesmerising vocals and quite a variety of unique sounds from dub, techno to rock. By the time of the brilliant Scorpio Rising in 2002, the band had quite an impressive back catalogue; a popular following; a legion of assistants from Dot Alison, Iggy Pop to Liam Gallagher, and seemed to have appeared in nearly every indie film ever made (yes, THAT one from Lost in Translation). But a seven-year gap between Satan’s Circus and their fifth studio album Trans-Love Energies may determine whether their legacy remains intact.
And there is early promise. A teasing opener Silver Time Machine, despite the length, is a perfect taster after seven years of silence. A gradual build-up with Fearless listing various people who appear to have left him including Elvis, as if he’s stepped out of some silver time capsule into the new decade is mysterious, captivating and just quite weird. In any case, the soft murmurings sound very much like Sonic Youth’s Superstar, while a neat little mandolin/charango hook towards the end, accompanied with churning synth, all harks back to those Contino Session days. WILL YOU BE MY GIRL? How many times have we heard that question in musical history? It matter’s not because the languid development of the teasing opener becomes Black Hole – a raucous Leather style number, with pulsating drums and swirly electronica. The lead single, the long and often tense Your Loft My Acid, stands out. Another long build up, we are faced with those familiar hooks: techectro with that distinct female voice just like Girls, only a bit more forceful. There is a lot of activity, and the slow-burning nature of the track can be off putting, but with a bit of patience, it shines as a great dance number.
And that is just about it. Unfortunately the middle of the album dives into anonymity. There is nothing new to report, and judging by the first three tracks Death In Vegas have attempted to recreate the glory days, while simultaneously trying to add a more modern day element to their songs. A reminder that they can still move with the times such as the slightly dubby/techno number COUM suggests. What remains is a rather average electronica album full of bland songs that you easily could of heard ten years ago or more. Or even worse, off some minimal techno megamix, as the completely pointless Drone Reich invites. There is, however, evidence of serious work and experimentation on the album. After all, both Holmes and Fearless are respectable music producers and DJ extraordinairians. Lighting Bolt is a very listenable chill-dub track, while the last part of album closer Savage Love screams ‘too little too late’ with that signature combination of drums, shoegaze and synths on which many bands pride themselves on. The fact that Death in Vegas pretty much carried such sounds heard from Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and New Order into the 21st Century means very little by the end of listening to this album.
Regrettably then, Trans-Love Energies will never be capable of fitting alongside everything that came before. It’s good to have Death In Vegas back, with the prospect of live tours very much on the cards, but despite the early promise and perky finish, the album is unlikely to be accompanying the latest indie film soundtracks this year.
Trans-Love Energies is out now on Drone Records