Recordings: Deadboy & the Elephantmen – We Are Night Sky

Every label ought to have a White Stripes-brand band. Admittedly, some are better than others — but Deadboy and the Elephantmen are at least Fat Possum’s second of the type (the others are the ‘Stripes-besting Black Keys). So it’s worth asking, why add these Southern shuffle-punks to the fold?

Picture ol’ Meg and Jack: girl-plus-sporadic-harmony on the drums and a nervy guitar ’n’ voice ’n’ phallus up front. Subtract clever two-tone color scheme and genius cover art tendencies. Add occasional bass, on-key background vocals (ahem, dear Meg) and barely more elaborate drumming (ah-Meg-again!), and you’re, well, still not quite there. It takes a few listens to decide whether or not you think Dax Riggs can sing or simply boom loudly at occasionally alternating pitches, but either way, it’s wincingly obvious how hard he’s trying to sound like Kurt Cobain. Over his clean-then-dirty, quiet-then-loud three-chord rock snappers, the Nirvana likeness occasionally grows unbearable.

But then they just go back to the usual — sounding like the peppermint pair. Riggs’ voice becomes a pleasure; the wispy, wordless bridge of “Dressed in Smoke” relieves the boom-chink, power-chord desert, which subsequently gets fresh again when they add a fat, slobbering bass. The magic of the bluesy duo succeeds once more, if only in its moment (and that’s why every label should have one).