There exists a parallel rock ‘n’ roll universe in which Elvis Presley ran away after his 1968 comeback special to Germany, his stomping grounds during his Army days. And there he lives to this day, making records very much like the Dex Romweber Duo’s Ruins Of Berlin.
Back here in this dimension, of course, Romweber has been around a while, going back to the Flat Duo Jets a couple decades ago. He’s also done time as a solo troubadour and fronting a big band. But playing in a guitar-drums duo is still Romweber’s calling, especially now that he’s got sister Sara (formerly of Let’s Active and Snatches Of Pink) bashing away behind him on drums.
So even though Ruins Of Berlin is the Romweber siblings’ first album together, it has all the telepathy you’d expect from a family affair, locking Sara’s runaway-train drums in a race to the finish with Dex’s rampaging guitar. Naturally, it’s a photo finish. Dex sounds real, real gone as always, singing in a rockabilly-vampire voice perfect for late-night horror movies. It lands somewhere between a growl and a cackle, sharp-edged and feral.
Half of the album’s fourteen tracks are originals, and the other half are obscure covers by the likes of Morty Nevins, Frederick Hollander, Gene Roland and John J. Beveridge. You’ve probably never heard of those cats, but you’ve no doubt heard of the Romweber admirers who show up, siren-like, for cameo spots: Chan “Cat Power” Marshall, Neko Case and Exene Cervenka. Each does a great job as Dex’s vocal foil, with Marshall’s sultry turn on “Love Letters” winning on points.
Really, though, Dex is the star of the show, sounding like he could crank out one of these a year for the rest of his life. Let’s hope he gets the chance.