Death In Vegas - The Contino Sessions - Review
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critics' view

In 1963, Andy Warhol said, “I like boring things. I like things to be exactly the same over and over again.” Warhol didn’t mean that he was bored by things, he meant that the more you look or listen to exactly the same thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel. Richard Fearless, 27, committed Warhol fan, the man who is ostensibly Death In Vegas and the man who has created the most astonishing album you’re likely to hear all year, knows exactly what the pop artist meant.

He and his Death In Vegas partner, Tim Holmes, know that in music today, meaning is nothing and feeling is everything. It is better to articulate emotion in any form than to try to say something, because there’s nothing left to say and it’s increasingly difficult to find anything to care about. Listen to ‘The Contino Sessions’ and you hear the same thing over and over again, but you never get bored; just as Fearless took as this record’s blueprint the endlessly looped, piled-upon garage splendour of Spiritualized‘s ‘Electric Mainline’: nobody’s saying anything. There’s no need.

If you liked Fearless‘ first album, 1997’s bruising but unfocused ‘Dead Elvis’, then prepare to be surprised. Because here is a record that harnesses that record’s searing, if misdirected energy to its author’s love of rock’s notorious underclass – the Velvets, The Stooges, the Mary Chain, the Scream, erm, Neu!: outsiders all – and in doing so fashions a curiously tender, black-hearted modern soul classic; the last great record of the millennium, if we’re being pretentious.

And hell, why not? There’s such a paucity of real, transparently obvious talent out there that it’s actually a sheer joy to celebrate a record which stays true to its creators’ (admittedly rather bleak) grand vision; a record which manages to combine the excesses and inspired musical mandate of both ‘Screamadelica’ and ‘The Velvet Underground And Nico’ while maintaining a level-headed, unimpeachable urban cool. And, appropriately in these information-saturated times, ‘The Contino Sessions’ is an album that means nothing and is purely about the music. Really, it’s all about the feeling.

It helps, of course, that Fearless has drafted in his heroes and asked them to interpret his music as best they see fit. There’s Bobby Gillespie, sneering lines like, ”Eggs bearing insects hatching in my mind” over wired narcotic hip-hop on ‘Soul Auctioneer’, and Jim Reid, although his turn on the decidedly Mary Chain-esque bleached noise of ‘Broken Little Sister’ is the album’s only weak link. And famously, there is Iggy Pop, whose wide-eyed and unrepentant serial killer soliloquy, ‘Aisha’, complements perfectly Fearless and Holmes‘ spiked cocktail of defiant AC/DC drumming and mangled Krautrock. His finest moment since The Stooges say many. Er, ‘great’, mumbles everyone else.

There are songs of alluring beauty, too, which serve to dilute the album’s otherwise impervious and claustrophobic eau de smack. Like the brittle organ wheeze of ‘Lever Street’ and the Felt-gone-gospel slo-mo shimmy of ‘Aladdin’s Story’, or ‘Neptune City’‘s deceptively sprightly brass-parping finale, a song that says, shakily, as only instrumentals can, “Well we got there in the end, didn’t we? And wasn’t it bloody marvellous?”

‘The Contino Sessions’ can mean whatever you want it to. All we know is that it feels amazing. Warhol also said that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Death In Vegas‘ glory starts now.

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New Musical Express is a British music journalism website and former magazine that has been published since 1952. It was the first British paper to include a singles chart, in the edition of 14 November 1952. In the 1970s it became the best-selling British music newspaper. These days, NME.COM brings you the latest music news and reviews, along with music videos and galleries, plus band features, blogs on your favourite artists, concert tickets, competitions and more. external-link.png
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