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Elefant Men

Look at the publicity photo of New York City's Elefant. Now consider the title of the band's debut album, Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid. We know what you're thinking: "Oh, great, more Strokes wannabes." Granted, the photo does make the guys look as ostentatious as the most bling-happy rapper (Is this supposed to be some kinda '60s cigarette ad parody or something?). But you'd be wrong to write 'em off without giving the album a spin or three. So close your eyes, forget what the hipsters say, and just listen. Or better yet, check 'em out live. There's a fine line between cockiness and charisma, and Elefant straddles it quite effectively.

Led by vocalist (and primary songwriter) Diego Garcia, Elefant occupies both sides of the mood fence, alternating between the dark and the danceable, and always with a sense of romantic gravitas. Though comparisons to the current lot of NYC bands are inevitable, Elefant draws more from British groups like the Cure and the Smiths than its Velvet Underground-inspired peers. Vocally, Garcia is more akin to David Bowie than Lou Reed -- but without any of the sexual ambiguity.

Sure, most of the songs are about girls -- which, no matter how passionately delivered, usually don't end up as intimate as they're meant to be (Garcia's no Jonathan Richman). But there are also songs like the album's brooding title track, which reveals a bit more ("I look outside and see the world at war/The people walk to work like they're alone/I sit in silence staring at the phone").

Indeed, there's more to NYC rock music than what falls from the Velvet's family tree. There's more to '80s revival than Gwen Stefani's vacuous solo project. And there's more to Elefant than four photogenic bedheads.

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Jason Budjinski

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