Someone famously noted that the young Michael Stipe's voice was R.E.M.'s lead instrument, and so it is with Theo Kogan of Theo and the Skyscrapers. When we slide in So Many Ways to Die, the NYC trio's slammin' debut, we hear in Kogan's dispassionate snarl echoes of one of rock's mock-mechanical pioneers: Terri Nunn of the '80s band Berlin. Though the comparison will seem odd to some -- Nunn's crew came up through the New Wave ranks; former Lunachick Kogan was a leader of the '90s I-am-grrl-hear-me-roar movement -- the connection has everything to do with the vocalists' flat, fuck-you deliveries, which could wilt roses. Nunn made intercourse sound like a mechanical bull ride in "Sex (I'm A . . .)." Theo's "Jealousy Died" makes suicide sound like a jolly alternative to this mortal coil. Of course, it's all an artful dodge, but that's what the best art's all about -- at least since, say, Dickens. The Static Age shares the bill.