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Death in Vegas, ‘Scorpio Rising’ (Sanctuary)

Death in Vegas’ Richard Fearless and Tim Holmes, long marginalized as a grimmer Chemical Brothers, may have finally surpassed their rocktronica colleagues. For about 17 minutes, the duo’s third album comes terrifyingly close to brilliance.

Scorpio Rising picks up where 1999’s artistic breakthrough The Contino Sessions left off, diving into a murky world of sexed-up electro-sleaze and serial-killer chic. Openers “Leather” and “Girls” solder layers of filthy synths onto vigorous guitar rock. Nary a word is uttered-save for Susan Dillane’s ethereal moaning-yet the mood is unmistakable. This is a drug record, a balls-out, spike-into-my-vein soundtrack for bloody body modification and recreational Satanism. If Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie had a soul, he’d sell it in a minute to create music this focused, this thrillingly depraved.

But just as the couches in Scorpio’s opium den are getting comfy, in stumbles soccer hooligan Liam Gallagher to spit out the title track. Flexing Britpop’s most recognizable pipes over a bed of sampled psychedelia, Gallagher fares admirably, but still ends up killing the mood. Later, professional punk coot Paul Weller turns up to grunt his way through a garage-rock cover of onetime Byrds guitarist Gene Clark’s “So You Say You Lost Your Baby.” It’s a stab at rootsy realness that does nobody any favors. “Hands Around My Throat,” with Nicola Kuperus of Detroit electro duo Adult. on vocals, is far better, an ode to erotic asphyxiation sung by a horny robot. Blame the weaker patches on Fearless and Holmes’ club-DJ roots-they want to mix it up and maybe score a crossover hit in the process. But they’re better off sticking with the perversions that got them here.