No Exit

DAVID HOLMESBow Down to the Exit Sign (Go! Beat import)

The underbelly of American life has fascinated non-American musicians since before Eric Clapton fetishized the blues. Like Nick Cave’s hell-bent Southern gothic and Barry Adamson‘s flickering, Bukowskiesque noir visions, David Holmes’ take on the States has precedents in Hollywood depictions of the past. Inspired by ‘50s and ’60s caper flicks and ‘70s blaxploitation, the Belfast DJ-producer has, aptly enough, scored several films, including Steven Soderbergh’s atmospheric crime picture Out of Sight and his upcoming remake of the Rat Pack vehicle Ocean‘s Eleven. Holmes developed his menacing, aggressive sound, a reflection of the chaotic tenor of urban life, after an ambient-inflected debut album whose best feature was its title (This Films Crap, Lets Slash the Seats). For his second record, Let’s Get Killed, the producer walked the New York streets with his DAT, capturing denizens on the edge.

Equally comfortable in the realms of rock and dance, Holmes is hard to pin down stylistically; his latest album, Bow Down to the Exit Sign, like Moby‘s 1999 Play, draws from classic blues to add new life to electronic music. Instead of sampling vocals from vintage 78s, however, Holmes collaborated with a cadre of distinctive vocalists: Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, R&B cat Carl Hancock Rux, neo-blues man Jon Spencer and sultry-voiced Tricky cohort Martina Toppley-Bird. Known to spin MC5 and the New York Dolls during his DJ sets, Holmes revels in the decadent, apocalyptic vibe of classic glam and punk. On tracks like ”Sick City“ and ”Bad Thing,“ he layers raw, garage-rock energy and sleaze with the rhythmic inflections of dance music. The results often bring to mind Curtis Mayfield or Keith Richards (check out the ”Sympathy for the Devil“--ish intro to ”Slip Your Skin“). Yet Holmes’ rock touchstones aren‘t mired in past glories; he delves into Tortoise-style post-rock on ”Hey Lisa“ (with sweeping strings courtesy of David Arnold) and masterminds a Sonic Youth--style sci-fi jam on ”Incite a Riot.“

Purist beatheads may be dismayed to hear Holmes playing so fast and loose with genre conventions. Those with less regimented listening tastes will find themselves caught up in Bow Down to the Exit Sign, whether it’s a rock record that‘s easy to dance to, or a dance record that rocks.


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