Glaswegian rockers Sons And Daughters have always had a taste for high-end darkness. The Scots first won attention for the ragged, blackened rockabilly track “Johnny Cash” back in 2003. Five years later, they earned comparisons to Nick Cave with their breakthrough album, This Gift. Now, for their overdue follow-up Mirror Mirror, they take aim at Suicide’s thorny crown, hotwiring their typically grimy guitars and theatrical guy-girl vocals with a sudden influx of electronics. “Breaking Fun” might be the best song S&D yet: It slides into the room on a wave of quavering goth guitar, then jitters to blasts of digital disturbance as Scott Paterson howls about dirty discos and government distrust. On the opener, “Silver Spell,” the band borrows Salem’s horror-score synths to soundtrack Paterson and Adele Bethel’s cabalistic chanting. Bethel takes lead on the spiky, minimal, groove-based “Rose Red,” which eventually crashes through the finish line in a tangle of treated axe-shredding.
But as much as the album buzzes with new energy—thanks to producer J.D. Twitch, hailing from the DJ duo Optimo—it also creaks with growing pains. Mirror Mirror is never as immediate as its predecessor, and it buffers its outstanding highlights in forgettable combinations of spooky textures, disembodied vocals, and bloodless guitars. A low point is “Axed Actor,” an unintentionally campy tribute to the Black Dahlia murder that features an off-key interpolation of Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.” Thankfully, Mirror Mirror ends on a high note with “The Beach,” a sneering, bar-razing nod to the band’s former obsession with the Man In Black. Which prompts the question “Why did they ever leave him behind?”