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The Dead Science 

Villainaire (Constellation)

Wednesday, Oct 15 2008
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Seattle-based Dead Science is either a pop band with experimental inclinations or an avant-garde combo disguised with contemporary mannerisms. On its fifth album, Villainaire, the trio offers feverishly fuzzed-out guitar, spastic rhythms, and melodramatic instrumental outbursts. Such jarring elements are made more hospitable with the seductive warmth of guitarist Sam Mickens' singing. His vibrato, portentous yelp, and over-the-top dramatics evoke David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and Destroyer's Dan Bejar. Mickens (also a member of Xiu Xiu) is both the melodic anchor and the subtle comic relief for the disc's jagged Minutemen-meets-Genesis nature. The downside of his delivery comes in his David Byrne Semiotics Songwriting 101 lyrics ("Enervated and crippling unsure/Jazz fist into the body of a girl/Let the sails and curtains unfurl/To become my ghost costume"). The Dead Science aims to place an interesting spin on dissonant art rock, but add the overwrought lyrics to an overall lack of engaging tunes, and Villainaire is more novel than it is gratifying.

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Mark Keresman

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