The Bellrays


The BellRays are one of SoCal's greats, and singer Lisa Kekaula is one of our greatest, a no-bullshit belter with a voice as hot as a blowtorch—reviewers reference Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin and easily get away with it—and a backing band to match, a telepathically tight three-piece that does everything the MC5 did with 40 percent less manpower. Their debut full-length, Let It Blast, and follow-up, Grand Fury, are mandatory for new listeners; fans not true enough to have picked up the vinyl the first time around can chase off most (but not all) of the guilt with this, a collection of B-sides and rarities going all the way back to 1995, when garage—as far as the glossy music press was concerned—was just something to keep your oily rags in. There's enough here to basically count as an unofficial album, anchored by such standouts as “Tie Me Down,” “Suicide Baby” and “Say What You Mean,” all released the same year Blast came out and all bursting with the same pulverizing energy. The final, less frantic and most recent tracks (“I Lost the Feeling” and “The Same Way,” both from Brit import singles) offer more of a chance to catch your breath in between the BellRays' Godzilla blues, a welcome comedown from a bracing ride. A band that can put together a non-album-tracks compilation (traditionally, something between freak show and graveyard, unless you're the Velvet Underground) that's this consistent should be a hipster household name by now, and anyone who wants to play around at rock N roll should have half these songs already.

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