Rays - Rays

by Kevin Orton Rating:8 Release Date:2017-03-31

Next to the jangling guitar, the first thing that struck me on RAYS self-titled debut, was this person can’t sing. And that’s a good thing. Especially considering what passes for singing today. While not exactly channeling the Shaggs, it does go to show that vocal acrobatics don’t exactly mean good music. But that’s what the RAYS are doing in their youthful, underground and Indie way. From the start, bands like the Feelies, Bats, Galaxy 500 and Modern Lovers come to mind. Even early REM. I’ll also toss in Creation era Orange Juice. The 3rd cut, ‘Lost in a Cage’ brings another band from CA to mind: Creedence Clearwater Revival. Though the humble vocals are a far cry from John Fogerty’s acerbic howl.

It’s clear from the get go, RAYS have a mind to rock and want to have fun while doing it. Which may explain why they’re so charming. Yes, charming. Absolutely, charming. Not in the self-conscious, twee Belle & Sebastian way, but in a genuine sense. These kids aren’t out to put on any airs. The lack of pretension is truly refreshing. If the likes of ‘Attic’ and ‘Dead Man’s Curve’ don’t grab you, then there’s little hope for you.

‘Back Downtown’ brings a more subdued Buzzcocks to mind. No nonsense playing and a sarcastic relationship with boredom and ennui. The riffs are irresistible and they keep coming with ‘Gambler’. RAYS may not be starting a revolution anymore than they’re trying to reinvent the wheel. Why fix what isn’t broken? Instead, they’re holding their homemade go cart together with spit and glue and riding down any hills they can find.

A hint of darkness and anger creeps into, ‘Drop Dead’. The band, chugging along in vintage Velvet Underground mode. RAYS are most certainly derivative but what band isn’t? The trick is to make it your own. Where bands like the Horrors tip the hat, RAYS inhabit their sound. If they’re squatting in an abandoned old house, they’ve made it their home. This is especially evident on tracks like, ‘Pain and Sorrow’.

If ‘Theatre of Lunacy’ is a little obvious and preachy, they more than make up for it with, ‘Made of Shadows’ which brings early Wire to mind. It's short, and a touch more bitter than sweet. Things come all too quickly to an end with the ballad, ‘Over and Over’. A song that brings one of my favorite unsung bands to mind, The Loft. The laid back, unassuming vocal style very reminiscent of early Pete Astor.

RAYS’s debut is direct, to the point and no nonsense. No one’s screaming at you or having a therapy session. It's wholesome, solid and compelling from start to finish. It’s the kind of sound one wants to freeze in aspic and visit again and again. A delightful introduction to a band one hopes will never outgrow the sweet racket they're making.

 

 

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