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The Bell Rays
Grand Fury
Uppercut Records/Vital Gesture Records


Because I only listed 6 albums in my top 10, I am exercising my optionsÖGrand Fury will fill the remaining 4 slots. This radio programmerís nightmare is a mind-blowing, genre-bending, powder keg that refuses to be ignored. The Bell Rays are so full of well-deserved confidence; they throw in outtakes and jams as intros. (Those are lowercased in the track list.) I suspect a ploy to make you turn up the volume, so your eardrums leave home when the song explodes into existence. I already found a jukebox with this disc on, and the outtakes screwed the order up.

It would be fair to call them Motown soul, if you are referring to the MC5. (No surprise that theyíve appeared with Wayne Kramer.) Chanteuse Lisa Kekaula shares the raw energy of Tina Turner, the rough soul of Aretha and throw in a little Koko Taylor. The aptly named "noise" is the lead-in to "Too Many Houses In Here." The fuzzed-out psychedelic blues and hard energetic soul feed off each other, building and spiraling. Guitarist Tony Fate drives it into a deconstruction zone, for the sort of fallout breaks the Chambers Brothers are want to create. Ray Chin devastates with clean and precise drumming. No time to recover before "Fire On The Moon" confirms the power and masterful songwriting. "Thereís a fire on the moon and I canít get there/God damn these wings, they take me nowhere/Cause Iím stuck inside a moment, canít find my way out of time." Irresistible forces are at work to make you move. Visions appear of Kekaula pumping her leg in time while she confronts the mike. Bass man Bob Vennum pens straight-ahead rocker "Snake City." Peppered with Creedence howls and MC5 audience incitement, this is a new hymn for the Rock ní Roll Church. Fateís hell-on-wheels guitar peels out and hits the highway. Chin adds more sure-footed smash and grab drums. "Screwdriver" crashes against the rocks, recedes, and comes back relentlessly. Vennumís bass create the waves. "Heat Cage" has more fuzz than a garage full of Voxx bands. The low-slung kind of fuzz that feels good in your special place. Tandem bass and guitar are churning out beautiful tones and changing gears perfectly like a synchromesh. Steppenwolf heaviness with the Acid Queen in the sidecar "Drawing black circles Ďround the sun." A collage of Soundgarden and Cornershop riffs make up "Evil Morning". (The second such Cornershop riff-off in as many months) These motifs bash around with metal freakouts like hippies sewn to heshers. To make the day go this wrong, someone must have found concentrated evil in their wheaties. "Evil morning has a thousand eyes/Woke me up from an ancient sleep/Spreads like cancer to the body/Things ainít never what they used to be." Then a loping 5th Dimension segment leads back into happy disaster.

Perhaps the most important song "Zero PM" uses a dark Eurythmics envelope for the message, "The world is a ghetto, you are a ghetto and a ghetto must burn from within." While itís slower and more brooding, it contains as much venom. Speaking of which, the bass has a big soft line augmented by scratching and plucked guitar. Since they never do anything nice and easy, all hell breaks loose, "Burn a great big hole in the sky, Ďcause all Godís children must go to heaven." Itís almost an Animals feel without organ. Angry 4th beat powerchord metal as they tell you that "Stupid fuckiní people got friends in high places/stupid fuckiní grins on their stupid fuckiní faces." Itís pretty fun at first, but quickly loses favor to more cerebral pieces.

Donít be fooled into thinking "Have a Little Faith in Me" is a standard. Itís very authentic sounding nightclub number written fresh by Mr. Fate. Itís like Mahalia singing a Van Morrison tune. Mellow, tasteful jazz guitar as if Tuck and Patti electrified. Twilight zone introduces the Stoogey, "Monkey House". Syncopated refrains and Syndicate of Sound rhythms as the woofers fall off from static. The music apes the lyrics as, "Every little thing is coming unglued/monkey see, monkey do." "Warhead" is deliberate and heavy and, of course, fuzzy. "My great-great-granny was an anglophile/And Iím just an agronomic juvenile." This is a really tight band, as "Under the Mountain" confirms.

The song worth the entire cost of the album would be "They Glued Your Head on Upside-Down". Share this one with your loved ones on those special occasions, "Now Iíve got the notion to piss in your ocean/To tear your playhouse down/To kick your ass and slap your face/While the world goes spinning Ďround" (insert title) Ahhh, they saved the best for last.

I predict that The Bell Rays will be huge. Radio will be forced to play them. Tony Fate will be the guitarist of comparison. Lisa Kekaula will become a superdiva.

-Ewan Wadharmi

Track Listing:

  1. noise fragment
  2. Too Many Houses In Here
  3. Fire On The Moon
  4. Snake City
  5. ska driver
  6. Screwdriver
  7. Heat Cage
  8. Evil Morning
  9. Zero P.M.
  10. do you speak english
  11. Stupid Fuckiní People
  12. Have A Little Faith In Me
  13. Monkey House
  14. little funky jam
  15. Warhead
  16. Under The Mountain
  17. They Glued Your Head On Upside-Down
  18. hello hello


Mike Doughty



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