omehow Dirty Vegas managed to shift 700,000 copies of their eponymous debut’s dance-lite and ended up playing live at Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson’s wedding, their success seemingly built upon the chance use of one of their songs in a car commercial (and not even for a particularly good car) and some kind of vague, watered-down nostalgia for the mid-to-late 90s when acts like Underworld could spawn bona fide Top Ten Hits from their otherwise proggy techno/house/stream-of-conscious-shouting hybrid. Suddenly flush with cash and transatlantic platinum status, yet with their anonymity intact, the trio have decided to eschew dance music and start “writing” “songs” using “real” “instruments”. But this isn’t Sub Sub transmuting into Doves, there is no undeniable post-acid-house dancepop smash here, no calling from Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division. This is three guys who think that their organically grown grooves and newly discovered songwriting penchant is the future.
One isn’t just inconsequential—it’s fucking rubbish. “Roses” starts promisingly enough, all shimmering keys and expensive new-wave-gone-stadium guitars, but then we remember this is the 00s and not the 80s. And at least Jim Kerr could sing—Steve Smith’s voice is neither memorable nor pleasantly forgettable nor even beguilingly cracked and torn with emotion; it’s just poor. “Home Again” proves that if you’re planning on writing a song about walking home you really shouldn’t bother unless you’re Alex Chilton. And “Human Love” doesn’t even have the decency to be about cybernetic incest. This the same world where “Toxic” was a global smash, right? “Closer” is quite nice, but only because it’s actually “Vague” by long-lost early 90s English fraggle outfit Mega City Four. The lead-off single, “Walk Into The Sun”, would have sounded second-rate on the radio in 1984—in 2004 it sounds second-rate and anachronistic.
Dirty Vegas always made Underworld’s most benign & bland moments sound like Aphex Twin (go back and watch the video for “Come To Daddy” again and tell me that the screaming television-daemon-messiah isn’t the greatest and scariest thing in pop music ever), but now they make the likes of Faithless and Royksopp look like Luomo and Vitalic. Of course when you’re rhyming “heaven above” with “never enough” in the context of a limp adult oriented pop song (this isn’t even AOR), competing with global easy-listening dance-behemoths isn’t really a consideration anymore. This is sexless sex, danceless dance, popless pop, like Duran Duran without the style, tunes, intelligence or charm. It’s big, brash, bold and ultimately bloody rubbish, and in a world where Robbie Williams, Britney Spears and Scissor Sisters exist I can’t see the point in it.