Rhythm & Views

Deadboy and the Elephantmen

You can rest assured that singer Dax Riggs has the rock-star spirit when he seems to be channeling David Bowie, Nick Cave, Peter Murphy, Mark Lanegan and Michael Hutchence. He nods to most of them during the same song--a decadent glam rave-up titled "Stop, I'm Already Dead," the opening track on We Are Night Sky, the spanking-new CD by Deadboy and the Elephantmen. It's one of the best tunes I've heard so far this year.

Riggs previously led sludge-metal kings Acid Bath and psychedelic hard rockers Agents of Oblivion. In this Louisiana-based duo, for which he sings and plays guitar, his partner in crime is drummer and singer Tessie Brunet.

As a guitar-and-drums duo, they're bound to draw comparisons to the White Stripes and the Black Keys, but Deadboy's aesthetic is wholly different. Notably avoiding regional clichés such as swamp rock and Delta blues, Riggs and Brunet have created the most stirring approximation of glam-pop songcraft since the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Whether it's on gentle acoustic gothic-folk numbers ("No Rainbow," "Dressed in Smoke") that bring to mind Nick Drake, or proto-metal stompers ("Ancient Man," "Blood Music"), these tunes are shot through with enough pop treats to tease the sensibilities of bored rockers: catchy melodies, Tin Pan Alley jauntiness and bubblegum background vocals.

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