Nothing beats a terrific vocalist. In Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Kevin “K.R.” Starrs elevates the Cambridge, UK, band’s Sabbathy psych doom to delicious heights thanks to a wheezy, distortion-heavy sneer that’s creepy, sexy and stylish. You can picture his smile curled up Joker-style, his fingertips perched together, as he sings of evil women and murderous nights. He’s like a demented John Lennon or a pulp-novel-obsessed Ozzy.
But it’s Starrs’s melodic knack and phrasing that make at least half the songs on the band’s third album sound like classics. Melody Lane, Pusher Man and The Night Creeper are some of the cult act’s best songs, all set to riffage that’s heavy with tough groove, basic in an elemental, familiar way, tonally perfect, with just the right amount of penetrating high end. Guitar solos are scarce and unravel into wicked chaos.
The record’s second half loses some immediacy, partly due to the hazy nine-minute epic Slow Death, but not enough to diminish the overall power.
Top track: Pusher Man
Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats play the Phoenix on September 17.