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The Mission Creeps: Dark Cells (Refractory) 

This always-intriguing local act is polishing its sound—a combination of surf, psychobilly, Goth and horror-movie soundtrack influences—to a hard-lacquered sheen. Still tough as nails, but not as raw, The Mission Creeps is a band hitting its stride.

Leadoff track "Boneyard Scene" dips into R&B rave-up territory, with revving motorcycle-movie lead guitar licks and a delicious solo that flirts with Middle Eastern exoticism. It's true that James Arrr's vocals and guitar-playing remain the focus of most of this material, but Miss Frankie Stein's dynamic bass assertions have only gotten more agile and expressive, while new drummer Jeff DiDay ably provides pacing and energy.

The title track is chock-full of reverb and spooky atmosphere, injecting a lustrous 1980s feel into the proceedings. In a perfect world, that tune and the catchy, beguiling "These Horror Twins" would be massive radio hits. A revisit to the Creeps' popular tune "Monster" is darker, faster and more aggressive than an earlier version—a bit more punk, if you will. Sexy subtlety is the modus operandi of "Cannibals in Love," "Arsenal of Charm" and "Nano Machines With Intent to Kill," while "Dead to Me" works the lurking surf-Western groove to an intoxicating level.

The confidence and growth displayed on this third release by The Mission Creeps will help maintain the group's reputation as one of Tucson's top live acts.

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