Taking a page from the Moby playbook, the British electronica trio Dirty Vegas licensed their first single, "Days Go By," to a high-profile Mitsubishi ad campaign before their debut was even released. The move worked: Dirty Vegas debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart, which means itís one of the biggest electronic-music CDs of 2002.
But success remains a double-edged sword in the electronic-music scene. Although the sales figures prove that Americans arenít completely techno-phobic, still, if teaming up with the corporate world is the only ladder to fame, then the futureís a grim one for knob twiddlers who arenít willing to shill for luxury auto manufacturers. Despite any moral queasiness you may feel about their quick ascent, Dirty Vegas have something interesting to sell themselves: a sleek intertwining of mainstream trance and melancholy Britpop ó as if Paul Oakenfold and Coldplay had brought samplers and songcraft together in the studio. "Days Go By" is indeed the standout cut; like a companion to Stardustís French-house smash "Music Sounds Better with You," it sets longing and loss to an irresistible groove, a yin-yang combination that tugs the body and the heart in different directions. And overall, the merging of rave and rock is successful: singer Steve Smithís misty, idealistic melodies will please the Britpop faithful, and producers Paul Harris and Ben Harris (not related) have created minimalist backdrops well suited for the clubs. By the end of the album, though, the trioís cross-genre fusions have begun to falter. When you combine the maudlin lyrics and weepy tone of thin-skinned Britpop with the antiseptic throb of mainstream trance, the results eventually begin to add up to less than the sum of their parts.