...probably sound best when opening super-sized cans of lager with your teeth...
Soul Power is, sadly, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s great stupid
self-perpetuating myths. Yes, we can all salute music’s capability
to bring people together, but the idea that, say, the end of
racial segregation in the ’60s Deep South was in any way
accelerated by James Brown wearing a fur trilby and doing the
splits is misguided. Likewise Detroit metal-soul progenitors
the MC5 – with their political wing, extreme leftist discourse
and manifesto of “dope, guns and fucking in the streets” – were
vastly more interested in the tightness of their trousers and where
the next score was coming from than the total overthrow of the
blood-soaked capitalist pigfuck Amerikkkan establishment.
And so on to The Bellrays, a band who similarly like to adorn
their music with various different shades of airy Soul Power
rhetoric, when the simple fact is they are a goodtime rock’n’soul
party band that probably sound best when opening super-sized cans
of lager with your teeth. There’s no shame in it, mind: three
albums in and this foursome are probably the act most qualified
in the world to take the jams round the back of the pub and give
them a swift but thorough kicking.
Comprising a selection of songs recorded over the last decade
or so for various tinpot SoCal labels and now compiled, Hives-style,
by Alan McGee, ‘Meet The Bellrays’ is mostly recorded live in
rehearsal and mostly pretty excellent. Melding together throbbing
‘Raw Power’-era Stooges noise with the white knuckle velocity of
Henry Rollins‘ hardcore punk avatars Black Flag,
The Bellrays‘ music is way more than just
above-par garage-metal. It’s mostly down to
ex-jazz singer Lisa Kekaula’s voice: in an age where anaemic dolts
like James Walsh and even Danny McNamara are hailed as enduring vocal
talents, her gutsy Aretha Franklin-type blues wail is genuinely
astonishing. When bolstering the likes of dumbo garage stomp ‘They Glued
Your Head On’ or the suitably monolithic ‘Blues For Godzilla’ the
effect is nothing short of thrilling.
As the predictably gospel-tinged ‘Testify’ and some barely-thought-out
guff about mental ghettos attest, that Soul Powered revolution may
not exactly start here, but, brothers and sisters, when the music’s
this great who really cares?