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Veronica Lipgloss and The Evil Eyes - The Witch's Dagger

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Artist: Veronica Lipgloss and The Evil Eyes

Album: The Witch's Dagger

Label: GSL

Review date: Dec. 7, 2005

Veronica Lipgloss and The Evil Eyes owe a lot to the death rock that arose simultaneously in the big scenes of the early ’80s. They've got the seasick low end of the Birthday Party, the sax skronk of No Wave New York, and the screeching and reverb of 45 Grave. They avoid the moves that turned goth into a joke: Clumsy drum machine programming; overtreated guitars; dripping mascara; smug kinkiness and blasphemy. In short, they don't moan about death, and they've got a sound that's alive.

To be honest, they maintain the dripping mascara. And there's a lot of kink in these grooves. It gets a fresh reworking. The bass keeps time way up front, holding things together while everyone else layers rock and avant ideas in equal measure. The drummer is robotic at times, but breaks into jazzy fills. "Just for Fun" has a set of cowboy chords that are pretty much lifted from the Pixies. But they damage the middle of the song, and the abrasiveness of the chanted vocal line keeps it from ever approaching collegiate crowd-pleasing. There's plenty more echoing guitar, but saxophone and synth take over for whole tracks. That thick bass keeps grinding away, and with vocalist Rhani Remedes' shrieks, it keeps this band's personality consistent. While their approach is big and open, distinguishing them from other post-punkish acts of late, it’s got a grit that never seems forced.

Sax riffing is where this band really stands out. The reeds provide a path out of what sinks gothic music so often; the desire to be dance floor friendly while reveling in ugliness. Not many rock bands (to say nothing of dance music) have incorporated sax as fully as this band – "Mars" and "Benny's Nightmare" continue the corpse-on-the-sidewalk mood of the other tracks. They don't use sax to evoke the imaginary lounges of David Lynch. It’s right there in the middle of the sound, another grimy tone playing off of Remedes' caterwaul.

For a first album that lurches through a range of nightmare styles, Veronica Lipgloss have a distinct personality. It's trashy, but content to crawl around in the gutter. The dirges plod along with as much momentum as the fast ones. A band that is this comfortable in it's reptile skin hasn't shown up for a while. This debut is one of the best of the year.

By Ben Donnelly

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