Two songs into the Graverobbers' "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," lead singer-songwriter Karl Straub makes reference to Elvis Costello. Even before he utters his name, though, Straub recalls Costello's early recordings by wedding smart lyrics to punchy rhythms.
But since the world doesn't need another Elvis C impersonator, and since Straub's influences are broad and deep, the album never follows a pop leader into the inevitable lull. Instead, with the assistance of producer John Alagia, Straub and his three bandmates -- bassist Jim Gray, rhythm guitarist David Pera and drummer Matt Cook -- create a curious and often catchy collection of songs. By turns, the tunes are impressionistic ("Black Soda Under Black Rum" and "Soda Pop Moon"), droll ("Take a Bullet"), ironic ("Dried Out Loud"), despairing ("Acid Black"), playful ("Lords of Fuzz") and bittersweet ("Tonight"). The last of these songs takes on a country lope, but more often Straub and his bandmates adopt a pop rock stance that not only evokes Costello, but also Nick Lowe, Squeeze, Crowded House and their ilk.
In the end there's no new ground broken, but a lot of familiar turf clearly benefits from the band's affectionate and crafty touch.
Appearing Saturday at IOTA with Magnet. To hear a free Sound Bite from the Graverobbers, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8125. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)