Deap Vally - Sistrionix

by Alexander Segall Rating:4 Release Date:2013-07-01

It's quite unfair to mention Detroit's most famous recent rockers anytime a blues-rock duo comes scuzzily to the fore - after all, The Black Keys mined much the same sound for a while before jumping into bed with Danger Mouse. However, when you get drumming this motorik, guitars exactly like Jack White's, and when Lindsey Troy's vocals do nothing so much as ape early vintage White Stripes - well, there you go, they get mentioned.

Not every band is going to be groundbreakingly original. Not every band is going to do much more than play some gigs, release some albums, get people interested (and dancing or weeping if they're lucky), but I imagine that a lot of people will go to Deap Vally gigs as much as to see how little clothing the band are wearing, as opposed to hearing bold new music. Unfortunately, while I'm sure that in the white-hot heat of a gig they will probably sound like the saviours of rock 'n' roll's blues roots, a couple of songs on Jools Holland remind me of precisely how little they've deviated from the template set down by St Jack.

No song here really sticks in the memory longer than the next track. From opener 'End of the World', which is anything but, ideas are not abounding in abundance. 'Baby I Call Hell' rumbles along on an identikit garage-blues riff. 'Walk of Shame', however, has some real bite to it, detailing the titular walk home from a one-night-stand's pad. There's even a nifty little guitar break, an interesting moment from the 'epic' stomp of the opening salvo.

Likewise, 'Gonna Make My Own Money', espousing the ladies' desires to not marry rich men but make it on their own, does so with some bombast. On the slow rumble of 'Creeplife', where dirty old men and nasty VIPs prey on young women, the album's main theme of sisterly power makes itself heard once again. Unfortunately, this is a particularly poor song in everything but the message.

'Your Love', on the other hand, is one of the most sparse songs here, and that sparseness works - a simple chanted refrain, hypnotic drums (much more Moe Tucker than Meg White), and a complete lack of low-end make this more vital. By contrast, 'Lies' is the most indie-rock sounding of songs, with only brief bluesy flourishes. It's an aberration stylistically, but has a lot more groove than other track here.

It's the start of a possibly promising middle-section, and 'Bad for My Body', an ode to consumption and destruction, drives forward hard, and wants to raise hell, but like everything here, it sparkles too much, instead of seeming attractively grubby. We hear of all the things that result from the trouble they get into, but never what they want their mothers' to avoid knowing, and somehow, that slyness only comes across as coquetteish, not threatening.

'Woman of Intention' keeps the snarling punk attitude but there isn't really a hook to latch on to, a brilliant riff or a vocal moment, even a particularly memorable drum-part to drive the song into your memory. 'Raw Material' makes a heavy-handed pun about being felt up, and the sense of female right-on-ness frankly wears a little thin after 10 tracks of musical pounding with very few new ideas outside of plundering The White Stripes' back-catalogue.

'Six Feet Under' is the obligatory long song to end it all. They've been compared, evidently by some particularly over-active imaginations, to Led Zeppelin. Led Zep did this sort of thing properly, with changing, shifting dynamics and the use of subtlety.

Jack White did it by playing wildly inventive guitar solos and taking you on a journey into the unknown. Deap Vally, unfortunately, just play for a long while. The slide guitar doesn't add anything other than another layer of shiny pseudo-murk to what is yet another boringly garage-blues rote exercise.

This is over-produced, over-derivative, but technically competent karaoke. If you want to listen to hard, bluesy rock music with a powerful female voice, listen to Janis Joplin. If you can lose the blues, listen to Pussy Riot. Sistrionix is nothing more than a fleeting diversion.

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