So many bands have proclaimed themselves as musical heirs to the V-Twin, rocking engine of late-Sixties Detroit in the guise of the legendary MC5 and the Stooges, and yet so many flounder when trying to mimic their assault equally founded on ROCK and SOUL. They can go through the motions of rock fury but forget the sensual groove rhythms that keep the whole edifice from blowing apart (can anyone say Hellacopters?). Not so, friends, in the case of The Bell Rays. These guys (and gal) offer up a ferocious blitzkrieg of punk, rock and soul that is equal parts late-Sixties Detroit inspired mayhem, mid-Seventies energy, and a wink and nod at kindred spirits down under such as The Saints and Radio Birdman.
While the songs are mostly written by guitarist Tony Fate and bassist Bob Vennum, their signature sound belongs to singer Lisa Kekaula, whose voice defines the band and separates them from a host of garage-based pretenders. Her voice, equal parts street wisdom and rock menace belts out the blues and is a veritable anvil that the rhythm section of Vennum on bass and Ray Chin on drums pound against your skull until you succumb.
Starting off in ‘95 and continuing through last year, this collection spans a host of singles and compilation tracks the Bell Rays have contributed. It’s a bit spotty on some tracks, as this release shows a band in transition as they discover their strengths and begin to explore skills and abilities. While the quality can vary from track to track, the collection as a whole never falls too short from the mark that they have established for themselves. Especially as the collection winds down towards the more recent tracks (“Suicide Baby,” “Chemical,” “Rude Awakening”), you find a band that hasn’t just begun to explore but one that has grown considerably confident in their talent and presentation. This is a good album that, no matter how loud I turn it up, just never seems loud enough.