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Deadboy & the Elephantmen

We Are Night Sky

(Fat Possum; US: 7 Feb 2006; UK: Available as import)

Before Jack and Meg White, how many duos were able to strip down rock’s basic elements of guitar and drums and still excel with flying colors? The White Stripes didn’t invent the idea, but they certainly made a lot of people think that the two-person band could be a viable option. Death From Above 1979 is doing it. The Black Keys are doing it. And now comes another outfit that is doing it for themselves, thank you very much. Although there is a supporting cast on a few of these tracks, singer and guitarist Dax Riggs and drummer and singer Tessie Brunet have brought a lot of punch with them. But at the heart of We are Night Sky is a fantastically raw rock sound, one that doesn’t come around all to often, but when it does, you should savor every freakin’ minute of it.


The dozen-track album begins with a two-minute ditty entitled “Stop, I’m Already Dead”. And it is one of those songs that, regardless of how many hundreds of times you’ll replay it, never truly gets tiring. Starting off with a less-than-meaty guitar riff and a vocal style that sounds like they’ve been listening to Collective Soul a tad too much, the riff then comes in and all glorious, guitar-driven hell breaks loose. A constant and simple slab of guitar enters while the drums are barebones. Think of something any young band should seek out to cover, and this is the gem for 2006. Sounding somewhat seedy, but catchy at the same time, the group hits this one out of the park.


The key to We are Night Sky, though, is how the group goes from such a gorgeous rocker to something as soft and sparse as the ensuing “No Rainbow”. Here, Riggs and Brunet could be strumming an acoustic guitar and singing the song on a sofa in their basement just as easily as they could be in a studio. Pretty harmonies are set against an even prettier melody on this pace-changer.  Despite the fact it might fit a tad better near the album’s homestretch, it hints at the range the band showcases for much of the remaining ten songs. “How Long the Night Was” starts off with an ominous arrangement that slowly builds into a great rock tune, bringing to mind a cross between Hawksley Workman and David Bowie. Bowie’s glam era comes to the fore on this track with a no-nonsense, Mick Ronson-like riff that the drums run perfectly alongside. The group continues their momentum with another mid-tempo, slow-brewing rocker called “Ancient Man” that hits on all cylinders.


Riggs and Brunet return to the barren, down-tempo acoustic style for “Dressed in Smoke”, which recalls Ron Sexsmith. Here Riggs lets loose on the vocals and moves into blues-soul terrain. The lone instance where the band almost sounds like a parody of the White Stripes is the urgent and frantic “Blood Music”, but once the first chorus is over, you’re hooked and they have you eating out of the palms of their hands. Think of something Jon Spencer might have done in his heyday, and you get the gist of this infectious song. One track that doesn’t quite live up to expectations is “Kissed by Lightning”, bringing to mind Death From Above 1979.


For the most part, though, this excellent twosome revitalizes We are Night Sky with the sweet riffs of “Misadventures of Dope”. They also excel on “Break It Off”, which seems to stroll along before concluding with an excellent, garage-like rave-up. The lighter, acoustic-tinted “Evil Friend” and “What the Stars Have Eaten” close this extremely impressive record.

Rating:

Originally from Cape Breton, MacNeil is currently writing for the Toronto Sun as well as other publications, including All Music Guide, Billboard.com, NME.com, Country Standard Time, Skope Magazine, Chart Magazine, Glide, Ft. Myers Magazine and Celtic Heritage. A graduate of the University of King's College, MacNeil currently resides in Toronto. He has interviewed hundreds of acts ranging from Metallica and AC/DC to Daniel Lanois and Smokey Robinson. MacNeil (modestly referred to as King J to friends), a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, has seen the Rolling Stones in a club setting, thereby knowing he will rest in peace at some point down the road. Oh, and he writes for PopMatters.com.


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