There’s a certain excitement that hits you when a band seemingly comes out of nowhere to blow you away, a tingle that starts behind the ears & moves down your spine forcing your feet to move. Oakland, CA’s RAYS didn’t come out of nowhere, but they’re sure to make your body herk & jerk. Calling RAYS a “supergroup” might be misleading, but not entirely inaccurate; comprised of four Bay-area music veterans; Stanley Martinez, Eva Hannan, Troy Hewitt & Alexa Pantalone whose current & past musical projects include local bands-of-note like The World, Life Stinks, Violent Change, & Dadfag.
On RAYS’ debut album the band spins eleven tunes of wiry, urgent post-punk, one foot planted firmly in the nihilistic apathy of 70 & 80’s punk (Wire, Electric Eels, Pere Ubu, Eno, Television The Fall), Australian punk past & present (UV Race, Terry, Victims, Babeez), and the addictive strum of 80’s & 90’s New Zealand/Flying Nun pop; all of whom have found their own way to meld the ferocity & thuggery of punk with a singular melodic voice.
RAYS are no different; the swirling jangle of “Attic” starts the album off, sardonically extolling the joy of ‘attic life’ with Hannan’s monotone conveying an underlying sense of dread & isolation. “Dead Man’s Curve”, with it’s hook-filled, organ-laden chorus plays like a lost teenage tragedy song, celebrating the desperation & angst of reckless youth. ”Elsewhere, tunes like “Theatre of Lunacy”, “Made of Shadows” & “Drop Dead” rage with a desperate fire, speaking to the absurdities of everyday life, but with a wry smile.
Shit is fucked, but the members of RAYS seem intent on finding humor within the world’s everyday desperation, because sometimes that’s the only way to stay sane. “Pain & Sorrow”, “Back Downtown” all speak to these truths. The album ends with Hannon’s “Over and Over”, it’s sweet melody belying a derisive outlook on the necessity of modern life & the repetition it requires.
Throughout it all, RAYS’ debut never feels angry. Recorded by Bay-area stalwart Kelley Stoltz & mastered by Australian tone-genius Mikey Young (Total Control/ Eddy Current Suppression Ring), RAYS is a joyous album packed with weird new-wave swirls and sugar-sticky hooks.