First Appeared at The Music Box, April 2001, Volume 8, #4
Written by Michael Karpinski
Got 35 minutes to kill? Of a mind to be slayed by something so skin-deep and simple it'll warm the cockles of even the most hopeless of hardened hearts?
Then make way for Deathray, five guys from Sacramento who come to you from roughly the same angle and vector as Elastica, Weezer, and Fountains of Wayne. Or, for those conceived pre-1980, imagine rehashed Clash — cleaned up and streamlined by the Cars — and you've pretty much gotten to the bottom of these promising (if not exactly rafter-rattling) retro-rockers.
To be sure, only the most inept investigators could fail to detect Ocasek & Co.'s flagrant fingerprints on Check It Over, Scott, and Only Lies — what with all their chugging guitars, throbbing bass, pitter-pat percussion, and sly, slinky synthesizer lines. Someone After You sounds eerily akin to laid-back, post-Replacements Paul Westerburg, while Now That I Am Blind coasts along on an equally placid, Joe Jackson-like mojo. 10:15 opens with a lonely, borderline-Baroque guitar part that sounds stolen from some dimly-familiar '60s Brit-pop ballad. And This Time nicks its killer riff from Wire's Three Girl rumba via Elastica's Connection. Ah, the befuddling-yet-constructive cannibalism of it all.
But let us remember: In today's mish-mush of a musical climate, it can hardly be considered a capital crime for a band still in its baby stages to be branded handy with hand-me-down hooks. After all, have you taken a look around lately? Have you been listening? That dial-tone-comatose, skull-numbing hum you've been hearing is the sound of regurgitation running rampant. Of choreographed copycats getting headlines, hosannas, and Grammys. Of shallow talents in tight-fitting fashions storming standing-room stages and selling their lip-synched, Lolita-styled souls to Sony, Capitol, and Columbia.
Fortunately for us, the five dudes of Deathray fit this mercenary mold about as well as Mama Cass would fit into a pair of Britney's pink, perfumed panties. Sure, their hooks are hand-me-down; their connect-the-dots chord progressions all but copyrighted. But grand theft audio this is not. Shoplifting? Possibly. Mimicry? Maybe. But, then, isn't that exactly what infants — and bands in their infancy — do?
In the end, doesn't the real satisfaction for most avid music fans come from standing back and watching that teething, teetering little toddler gradually grow into his own voice and vocabulary — if ceded the space and provided the time?
Deathray is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box