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Bellrays | Raw Collection | review | rock | Lollipop

The Bellrays

Raw Collection (Upper Cut)
by Brian Varney

An odds 'n' sods collection (or, as the cover itself states, "A collection of 7", 8" (?), compilation tracks and occasional stray dogs from 1995 to 2002") from perhaps the very best band currently doing the raw, hopped-up punk-suckling garage thing (yeah, I know, some contest) and a godsend to someone like me who's had neither the time nor the tenacity to round up said stray tracks. And, since it's been a couple of years since the band's last full-length, this is almost like a new album if you, like me, haven't heard these tracks.

Though the band may choose to refer to these tracks as "stray dogs," there's not a loser in the bunch. A Bellrays original like "Mind's Eye" is so good that I was shocked to learn that it's not a lost '60s soul classic and, frankly, it gives me a lot of hope for this band's future. Set-opener "You're Sorry Now" is not far behind, a slow-burner with a torrid vocal from Lisa Kekaula that shows she can do a lot more than just scream. Which isn't to say, of course, that she isn't a fine screamer, as the band's pedal-through-the-floorboards run through The Saints' classic "Nights in Venice" amply shows. She is, simply and unequivocally, one of the best two or three vocalists out there right now, her voice threatening and sexy in a way that turns me on and, in the same breath, makes me think that I'd be very scared if I ran into her in a dark alley.

And, hey, the rest of the band ain't bad either. Tony Fate has the sort of shitty, low-rent guitar tone that's par for the course with this sort of music, but he tears off interesting solos and riffs enough of the time that I wouldn't mind hearing him play through a real rig. The brunt of pushing this stuff to the moon, however, falls upon the shoulders of the ridiculously good rhythm section. Shit, if MC5 had had a rhythm section this good, they might've been the best band ever. Bassist Bob Vennum and drummer Ray Chin (whom I believe is no longer with the band) are ratcheted down so tight that you'd need one of those air guns they use in garages to tear this shit apart. I've never had the good fortune to see this band live, but I've gotta imagine the drummer's sweated through his shirt by the time they get to the first chorus of the first song and, likewise, you'll be sweaty to the bone from busting out your dance moves any and everytime this mutha starts up.
(4470 Sunset Blvd. #195 Los Angeles, CA 90027)  

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