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Bow Down To The Exit Sign
8,326 out of 10,000

David Holmes is some sort of DJ, from Belfast or New York (aren’t they all?) and he’s got some studio band and Bow Down To The Exit Sign is his third album and it’s very good. It’s some sort of companion piece to a film script called “The Living Room”. Evidently this is an actual script which he hopes to develop into an actual film, so this is not one of those imaginary soundtrack projects.

The sound is funky, jazzy and dense. It would be dominated by the Ray Manzericky keyboards of Darren Morris, where it not for all the other sounds, coming from all directions, large or subtle, but never an assault. (Hey, here’s what Bill Gates’ grammar checker thought was the proper solution to that run on sentence: “The Ray Manzericky keyboards of Darren Morris, where it not for all the other sounds, coming from all directions, large or subtle, but never an assault would dominate it.”) Beta Band bleep strings, spooky and silly voices stream together over funk beats and banging metal clanking to create a sound at once obviously rock with a funk bias, and a wacky sonic business.

Carl Hancock Rux takes the star turn on this album. He has a low, soulful voice with penetrating anger and smarts. The first song a cover of “Compared To What?” Ray Charles did it, but was that the original? I don’t know but I don’t think so. I’m ignorant. But it shows the continuing viability of songs over sonic landscapes. It’s corny “Ball Of Confusion” type politics, with the main goal to find a word that rhymes with “what”. Once it gets to the line about trying “to make it real”, though, you can hear the song get real, and the propulsion is more than real, if that means anything. A great track. I want to put it on a mix tape, but it’s pretty long. Rux returns on “The Living Room”, and while I can’t stand spoken word performances, which “The Living Room” essentially is, he acquits himself nicely over some rhythmic production, and sings a little too. Very nice work.

Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream helps out on the second track. He sneers through the souped up glam of “Sick City”, punking out the early Bowie sound in front of a wall of shredded noise. The one-two punch of “Compared To What?” and “Sick City” totally top loads the album, leaving me in a happy spaced out feeling, and it’s hard to take in the rest of the disc. Still, I try.

Jon Spencer starts tripping things out on “Bad Thing”, his vocal exclamations warped and bounced off each other in a collage of faked pain. The tragedy of Jon Spencer is that he is so infused with fire, so transgressively rooted that he could make great Rock and Roll, and save the medium. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way he settled on this Elvis impersonator hokum as being his authentic voice. He could be great, but neither he nor “Bad Thing” can escape his schtick.

Martina Toppley-Bird, famous for her work with Tricky adds some vocals to a couple of tunes. Conveniently, they are trippier. She sounds an awful lot like P.J Harvey here.

There are also some instrumentals, with much keyboards. The album, after it’s rocketing take off, drifts nicely through space. It’s basically too-hip-for-you bar music, but the kind that makes you say, “What is that?” instead of “Where’s that bartender, I need another nine dollar beer.”

-Dan Kilian

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