Meet The BellRays
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Like labelmates the Hives, the UK's first taste of the BellRays comes in the form of Meet the BellRays, a compilation of key tracks from their first two US-released albums, Grand Fury and Let It Blast. And like the Hives, Los Angeles' BellRays take many of their cues from the Detroit revival (the Poptones catalogue number's first three digits are MC5--cute), albeit with a distinct US west-coast flavour. The comparisons should end there, however; Lisa Kekaula's powerful vocals are reminiscent of Grace Slick circa Jefferson Airplane, while musically the BellRays are more heads-down than flying leaps. Their influences are firmly rooted in rock's more sombre past--see the visceral howl of the MC5 echoing through "Zero PM", "Under The Mountain" and "Too Many Houses in Here", the tiniest touch of Black Sabbath on "Hole in the World", and the moody resonance of Eric Burdon on "Blue Cirque". There may not be much new about The BellRays, but we're still pleased as slightly psychedelic punch to make their acquaintance.--Leslie Gilotti
Top customer reviews
Meet The Bellrays is a compilation of two previous recordings and it is as raw and vital a garage record as you could wish for.
The key element with their sound is the classic combination of big lead vocals against hard hitting backing tracks. Highlights definately are 'Fire On The Moon' and 'They Put Your Head On Upside Down', a killer single, if ever I heard one!
A vital addition to anyones garage/soul music collection and I cant wait to hear them when they get a decent producer!
The BellRays (and that capital R is really irritating, I know) are basically all about Tony Fate's mammoth guitar and Lisa Kekaula's gritty bawl. Things take a bit of a more relaxed, Eric Burdon-style turn on "Blue Cirque", but for the rest of the time, expect punk/soul rockouts like the inexplicable "They Glued Your Head On Upside Down" and "Blues for Godzilla" - the best song about Godzilla since American Music Club's "What Godzilla Said to God When His Name Wasn't Found in the Book of Life". Look out for the secret track - entirely unlabeled on the CD sleeve - and the shambolic opening to "Under the Mountain", which then explodes into soulpunk fury.
Well, to be honest that was my first thought. But in today's anything-goes-so-you-might-as-well-put-up-with-it world, the BellRays nearly pull it off.
Another of Poptones' rather heretical patch-up jobs of previous works, Meet The BellRays has all the subtlety of a elephant stampede. To put it mildly, this album is LOUD (and, coincidentally, must be played as such to gain full appreciation), scuzzy, raucous and sounds like it was made with all the studio technology that was available in their local scout hut (or whatever the American equivalent of that may be).
Draw comparisons with Detroit's MC5 if you must (and there are many - the Afro is only a little less impressive than Rob Tyner's, "Zero PM" sounds and feels like a tribute to "Motor City Is Burning"), but you've got to admire the guts of the BellRays to make perhaps the most anachronistic music of recent times. The kids, after all, like their machines, incoherent screaming, masks and depression. For them, this hooks-a-plenty, no-nonense aural assault will send them diving for cover behind their Slipknot posters.
So to the album. Luckily, there are some cracking tracks to justify the hype - "Too Many Houses...", "Killer Man" and especially single "They Glued Your Head On Upside Down" are all garage cuts par excellence - killer choruses, stomach-churning guitars a-plenty. The rest, however, is pretty much by-the-by and, to be honest, pins their influences to the mast. Indeed, singer Lisa's voice is so high up in the mix that the rest of the band might as well have stuck to their day jobs...
Another failure of the album lies in its format. Like with The Hives and The Cardigans (who were admittedly not on Poptones) before them, a hotch-potch of
choice (!) picks never does a band justice. You get no idea of creative progression, musical development and so on. Mind you, I'm a bit of a pedanticist, so maybe that's just me...
In a way, you can't wanting to like The BellRays for their devil-may-care attitude for making music that has little or no place in today's materialistic music marketplace. Yes, The White Stripes managed it, but never have a band been so eager to nail their one-band influence to the mast (apart from cover bands, obviously). I'm sure they're brilliant live, but on record their appeal is somewhat stagnant. Good luck to 'em, though - I'd love to be proved wrong...
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