It's tempting to list influences and reference points by way of review for Sir Deja Doog's Love Coffin: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Death in June, The Cramps, even the Louvin Brothers in places. The album's own press release offers the formulation: "one part Addams Family, one part Roky Erickson and one part Leonard Cohen." That's all accurate, but it doesn't go far toward explaining what makes Love Coffin so undeniably great.
Above all is Doog's voice. He sings like he's got his lips curled around every syllable, affecting a quasi-British accent. He wafts from croons to yelps to screams to whispers, baritone aching on ballads like "She Came to Wake the Dead," and squirming its way through up-tempo tracks like "Scorpio A-Go-Go."
Doog's is not some four-octave musical theater vocal range. His ability to manipulate tone, timbre and attack, however, is the backbone with which Love Coffin sits up straight.
Structurally, instrumentally Love Coffin is more expansive than Doog's past releases. Where last year's Burning Black and Blue was mostly solo acoustic guitar, on Love Coffin, Doog is backed by a formidable band featuring Tyler Damon on percussion, Keith Joust on bass, Sam Motter on saxophone, Diederik van Wassenaer on violin and Miss Mess and Abby Hart on backup vocals.
Like Doog's voice, the band is malleable. From a simple palette, they wring the lush simplicity of "Burn Out" just as easily as the scorching doo-wop clatter of "Bombasm." It's a small thing, too, but at the end of "Deep Dark Hole," they manage the sound of a band falling down a hole with surprising facility.
And underscoring all of this is Love Coffin's mastery of that tricky line between the dead serious and the ironic. On the album's several skits, Doog and vocalist Abby Hart lay out the concept behind the album. Broadly, it follows Doog's escape from a hellish pit in order to come to earth to satisfy his carnal desires. These skits are funny but never too winking, unsettling, but not out-and-out threatening.
On Friday Doog will celebrate Love Coffin's release on cassette by way of local label Holy Infinite Freedom Revival at General Public Collective in Fountain Square. For the less tape-inclined, there's a digital edition on Doog's Bandcamp, as well as a recently announced vinyl edition from Marching Sunn Records. However you have to get your hands on it, don't sleep on this one.