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
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.