Saturday, March 29, 2003

Concert Review: BellRays, The D4, Electric Six, Empty Bottle, Friday March 28, Empty Bottle

It sunk in while watching the BellRays that it has been about three years since I saw them, and a lot can change in that time.  Previously, they were a garage soul band. But new lead guitarist and young Lee Marvin look alike Tony Fate is a Jimmy Page wannabe. While the concept of Led Zeppelin fronted by Tina Turner is good in theory, the songs were too amorphous, just jams and would-be guitar solos which overshadowed frontwoman Lisa Kekaula as she tried to get a lyric in edgewise.

The D4, like the Datsuns, do put a new spin on the stereotype of New Zealand rock, as obscure a stereotype as it is. I was screaming at the TV that they would allow such ignoramuses on Rock and Roll Jeopardy when none of the three contestants knew the Chills were from New Zealand. To me and other '80s/early '90s college radio aficionados, New Zealand rock is all about Flying Nun Records, about bands with no more than two degrees of separation from the Clean, melodic guitar pop like the Bats or the dense wall of sound of the Straitjacket Fits. The D4 may be on Flying Nun but sound little like their precursors. They were rather like Sweden's Hellacopters, incorporating elements of garage rock, early punk and early '70s Black Sabbath. Despite a pair of very energetic and very flashy guitarists, they had little new to offer musically. The individual songs weren't great, but they do show promise in that the weakest song in their set was a cover of Queen's "Radio Ga Ga."

The most pleasant surprise of the evening was opening band Electric Six. The little press exposure they've gotten already feels like hype. Their semi-hit "Danger! High Voltage" shows high potential for annoyance value, with the lyric "Fire in the disco" being painful so soon after the Great White tragedy. If anything, that songs sells them short. They start from a base of garage, but bring in much more. Singer Dick Valentine recalls Sonics raspy vocalist Gerald Roslie. The throbbing, metallic tinge of the bass and rhythm guitar bring in hints of Gang of Four and Big Black. And somehow a guy with a geometric '80s 'do snuck in with the long-hairs and provides synth lines that match his haircut. Believe the hype on Electric Six, but don't be put off by their budding status as one-hit wonders.

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