Beginner’s guide to Dirty Vegas

Dirty Vegas briefly mastered an almost unique mix of electronic and rock music, and what’s more, with just three albums in their oeuvre, it won’t take you too long to get the hang of them.

Key moments

Days Go By and Ghosts, mainly, both from 2002’s eponymous debut album.

Where to start

Start with the debut Dirty Vegas for an introduction to how it all began.

What to buy

Hear where things went wrong (both commercially and creatively) with the follow-up One (2004) and then hear them pick up again with their latest release Electric Love (2011). If you can find it, track down the first CD of the Days Go By single for the essential acoustic version, mixed by Steve Osborne, plus bonus b-side 1979.

Don’t bother with

Too many of the other remixes or singles – even the brilliant Ghosts has little to offer.

Hidden treasure

There’s plenty of it, but some of it is extremely well hidden. Apart from the acoustic version of Days Go By mentioned above, the live sessions on the Simple Things single are also well worth hearing, as is 2004 b-side State of Mind. Best of the lot is the 2010 collaboration with EssenVee (formerly Stretch and Vern), Love Me Better.

For stowaways

Dirty Vegas – Electric Love

Dirty Vegas made their first proper appearance on the music scene back in 2001, with what seems to have turned out to be their best track Days Go By. The following year, their debut album Dirty Vegas was a wonderful mix of rock-driven songwriting with deep dance backing. It was a formula that really worked – their musical skills couldn’t be doubted when they performed wonderful acoustic sets, and their hits were always strong danceable tracks with clever videos to boot.

The follow-up album, 2004’s One with its One hit single Walk Into the Sun and just a couple of other good tracks was undeniably a bit of a failure on every level. The idea seemed to be to tone down the electronic sounds, and replace them with more of a rock feel, which inevitably took away what soul they had. It’s actually not a bad album, but neither is it as special as their debut. But then they disappeared for the best part of a decade, only occasionally resurfacing with the odd acceptable single, EP, or solo album.

The finest track from their wilderness years, 2010’s Love Me Better, was a collaboration with EssenVee, the amusing euphemism chosen by Stretch and Vern probably to avoid people associating their new material with their 90s Eurocack. That track is sadly lacking from the latest Dirty Vegas album, but is worth tracking down in its own right. Singer Steve Smith proves again that his voice is fantastic; it’s maybe just what’s behind him that has been lacking at times.

Following seven years after its predecessor, and exactly ten years after their first single, Electric Love is something of a return to form. Gone are the seven minute instrumentals which padded out their first two albums, and instead this album only has two tracks over four minutes, perhaps a reflection of the current dance music trend of only playing about a minute of each track in case the crowd start to get restless. From its opener, the inoffensive Little White Doves, through the possible hits ChangesElectric Love, and Emma, their comeback looks extremely promising.

Sadly it then starts to fall apart a bit. Some tracks such as Round and Round are less amazing but still good, but most of the second half of the album would be better defined as “pleasant but forgettable”. The album draws to a close with 21st Century, and pretty soon you’ve forgotten ever having listened to it. All in all, then, Electric Love is a worthwhile album if you remember what Dirty Vegas were up to ten years ago, but otherwise maybe not really worth bothering with. Do its first few tracks redeem the last few? Maybe you should decide for yourself.

Depending on where you buy it, Electric Love comes with a multitude of different unnecessary bonus remixes, a small number of which are actually quite good. The iTunes version seems to come with an extra song, while Amazon.com‘s cheaper version gives you five remixes, and I’m sure there are plenty of other versions to consider too.