The BellRays probably like themselves more than I do

And I do like the BellRays quite a lot. At one point I was even considering getting a t-shirt. And I bought and album of theirs. From a store.  Serious stuff.

But I get the feeling the band, particularly the guitarist and singer, already have all the top spots in their fan club taken.

I came across them a while back on an mp3 blog and was struck with the vocals and playing on “Hole in the World”, from an early album. Then I got hold of a later album Have a Little Faith and liked the single, “Third Times the Charm”, for totally different reasons. I was all prepared to buy into the band wholsesale when I started reading their  press releases and promo guff…

Blues is the teacher. Punk is the preacher. It’s all about emotion and energy, experience and raw talent, spirit and intellect. Exciting things happen when these things collide. Bob and Lisa made the BellRays happen in 1991 but they weren’t really thinking about any of this then. They wanted to play music and they wanted it to feel good. They wanted people to WANT to get up, to NEED to get up and check out what was going on. Form an opinion. React. So they took everything they knew about; the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, the Who, the Ramones, Billie Holiday, Lou Rawls, Hank Williams, the DB’s, Jimmy Reed, Led Zeppelin, to name a very few and pressed it into service. It was never about coming up with a ‘sound’, or fitting in with a scene. It was about the energy that made all that music so irresistible!

Wow! Really? Hmmm. Does a soul garage band really need a manifeto? Do they need to state their raison d’etre so explicitly? Can’t you just, y’,know…form one and play? It’s only rock and roll, after all.

Subsequent reading on the internet has only backed up this impression that good ole Bob and Lisa and co take themselves WAY too seriously. I know this shouldn’t matter to me as a listener but it does. I can no longer hear a bunch of good musos and a big black lady who happens to have a very good voice. All I can now hear is a bunch of musos who think they’re doing this incredibly serious revolutionary thing and they’re not, led by a big black lady whose ego is so big it probably needs its own dressing room, separate to hers.

In summary: Listen to BellRays, they are good, but do not engage them in conversation or ever, ever read anything they say about themselves. If you want manifestos, try Marx.

Hole in the World

Third Times the Charm

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2 thoughts on “The BellRays probably like themselves more than I do

  1. Have you ever actually TALKED to them to gauge their attitude? Also, usually those press releases/manifestos are written by someone OTHER than the band. As a professional musician of over 25 years (I helped create thrash as a kid in the bay area, and have explored many other genres at a professional playing level) I see nothing wrong with taking rocking way seriously either. The proof is in the putting…this crew smokes most comers. The songs are a cut above and carry a weight not seen in the slew of MC5 soul-infused wannabes dropping from the ceiling these days (Thee Emergency anyone? UGH!) and the band themselves have a much wider breadth of styles they can actually TRULY pull off.

    I am a professional music and film journalist now. I also found your write up and repetitive mentioning of “a big black woman” lazy and halfway racist. Doesn’t mean it is.

    My point? press and what people write, unless THOROUGHLY thought out, can be very deceiving. I know a couple very well known musicians with a rep for being difficult and they are anythign ut. I also know a couple actors who are supposed to be “way cool” and have nothing but bad things to say about people, and are rude as fuck (Bruce Campbell I am looking at you).

    Just saying man…

  2. Hey, you’re right, I did say ‘big black lady’ twice and it reads really badly…but, bear in mind this is an occasional blog where I rave about whatever I feel like, post, and then don’t come back for weeks, so I am not beating myself up about my expression too much. (On the same kind of point – it’s “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, dude. ‘Proof of the putting’ is pretty mangled.)

    As for the rest of your post – I get that you love the BellRays – I like them too but I won’t defend the pretentiousness. I have only played music semi-professionally for about three years when I was a kid, so I cannot speak with your experience, but I’m pretty sure this band should be in a position to represent themselves how they want on their own website, and if they can’t, that’s pretty sad. And if that IS them writing that stuff on their site and on other places I have seen…well, I already said what I thought about that.

    I think you can be too serious about ‘rocking out’, off-stage and out of the studio. Maybe bands do it just as a response to a culture of music journalism which craves novelty and wants to invent new ‘cult’ things to talk about all the time, when at the end of the day it’s rock and roll same as it ever was. But, bands don’t need to buy into that, and it seems to me this band has bought into it.

    I still like them, though.

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