Pop: Return to primal instincts
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Tuesday 09 November 1999
DEATH IN Vegas's The Contino Sessions rounds off the Nineties just as Primal Scream's Screamadelica began them, with dance-rock'n'roll, a hybrid, open form expressed with the primary-coloured, slick style that has defined this decade's most confident music.
Adopting Primal Scream's open-house policy to sympathetic collaborators - Dot Allison, Iggy Pop, Jim Reid and the Scream's Bobby Gillespie himself on The Contino Sessions - live, Death in Vegas maximise their basic principles. This is a late-Nineties soul revue, 40 years of rock'n'roll style machine- tooled into instantly identifiable sound and vision.
Visually, the evening depends on the spectacle of up to a dozen musicians ranged in front of rapidly changing projections, normal fare for dance acts, but constructed with unusual care by sometime visual artist, Fearless. "Dirge" begins with the suspicious sight of marching Nazis, but the footage mutates into freezing Soviet PoWs and liberating Allies; the sight of a strung-out Dot Allison at the front of a brightly lit stage with such images looming behind her can't help but thrill.
Musically, soul dominates: Hammond organs, horns and a trio from the London Community Gospel Choir providing soothing harmonies on "Aladdin's Story" and the technoid stew of "Neptune City". It all sounds fine, undeniably. But it's hard to ignore how traditional the drums sound at even the most anthemic moments, how it falls short of inspiration.
There's an appearance by The Jesus and Mary Chain's Jim Reid to break the mood, looking wounded and weakened, uncomfortable in the spotlight so soon after his band's dissolution. But the real centre of the night, the bonding presence that provides a sense of community the Gospel Choir just can't, is the appearance of Bobby Gillespie. He's greeted as a conquering hero, appropriately - for tonight, we are in his world. Singing the apocalyptic blues "Soul Auctioneer" with rare conviction - his best lyrics and vocal in an age - the man so often derided as a magpie and chancer is a revered originator in this company.
He comes back at the end, leading us in a near-wordless soul mantra, and we finish satisfied. What Death in Vegas are doing may be just a streamlined version of all that's gone before. But then, so has this decade. And really, it wasn't too bad.
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