Review of Photograph Album by Dirty Vegas

For artists who are effectively one hit wonders, there are few career choices when they reach the inevitable crossroads that follows. Take, for example, the truncated career of Gregg Alexander, the man who gave the world the elegiac 'You Only Get What You Give' as front man of New Radicals in 1999, only to end up writing songs for Boyzone a decade later. There are many other examples of those whose star burned phosphorous-brightly and then disappeared, but a surprisingly large and hardy group do still find life after commercial death, exploring ways of sustaining themselves less traveled.

Dirty Vegas Photograph Album

Interchangeably producers/musicians and DJs, Ben and Paul Harris (No relation) and vocalist Steve Smith formed Dirty Vegas (A last minute change from -Harry at record label insistence) in the early noughties, the heyday for electronic music's crossover into the bosom of a dying mainstream. From their early sessions came 'Days Go By', a mournful slab of post-club minimalism which in an era when the likes of Sasha & Digweed were being paid ten thousand quid a set spanned the globe before earning them a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. Call it's initial success luck, timing or good judgment, the song then earned a second life when licensed to a US car advert, giving it a new sensation of ubiquity that for the band may well have felt more like a straitjacket.

Now a duo (Ben left), 'Photograph' is just Dirty Vegas fourth studio album in nearly a decade and a half and succeeds 2011's 'Electric Love' in their discography. The answer to any questions about this apparent lack of productivity would seem to be that Smith and Paul now spend much of their time on the still lucrative DJ circuit themselves, but they're insistent that DV are still a songwriting entity as much as a production one, and its latest offspring is proof that any self-induced pressure to recreate the golden goose affects different people in different ways.  

Music Industry Survival Tip #1 - Front load the good stuff. Even in the age of the download and albums being something of a cadaverous format, Smith & Harris are astute enough to open up 'Photograph' with 'Let The Night' and 'Setting Sun', both highly polished, hook drenched house anthems in waiting that hit the ASDA mum demographic squarely between its tattoos.

It's equally creditable that there's no attempt to recreate 'Days Go By''s trance-locked dreaminess - the closest we get is the title track - but the pair's default setting otherwise is chiefly languid, Cafe Del Mar-lite ('Do What You Feel') or pleasant but featureless EDM ('Beat To Drop', 'Madness'). Briefly things spark back into life via the in-the-air/just-don't-care bounce of 'Northern Town', but an insincere cover of Duran Duran's 'Save A Prayer' only goes to underline how brilliant the original was, whilst a clutch of acoustic versions showcase a strength the duo have underplayed, much to 'Photograph''s detriment.

In managing to float after the Tsunami of exposure and shrugging off the inevitable damnation of being described as "Erm... yeah... you know, thingummy", Smith & Harris should be commended. The real shame is that now the spotlight has long since moved on, their latest instalment is as risk-free as if there were still men in suits watching on in their ivory towers, intent on their pockets being filled with gleaming hits.


Andy Peterson

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