What happens to warriors when the war is over? In Mick Farren's case, they simply keep on fighting for what they believe in, on a battlefield which, by the mid-'90s, ranged across three decades, a slew of albums, and some of the most perceptive rock journalism anyone ever dared to publish. And still Death Ray Tapes caught a lot of people off guard. Spoken word albums have traveled a long way since the days when Edison could get away with reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but if he sparked a revolution in technology (they called his invention the "gramophone record." Ask your dad), Farren is igniting something equally astonishing. Listen to him and you might even figure out what it is. Farren recorded Death Ray Tapes live in Santa Monica in June 1995. Backed by a band featuring ex-Lancaster's Bomber frontman Jack Lancaster, MC5's Wayne Kramer, and latter-day Deviant Andy Colquhoin, Death Ray is a poetry reading in subsonic overdrive, Farren's verse machine-gunning the listener with imagery which is part post-Flower Child disillusion, part urban L.A. psychosis, and part futurism on fire. Its nearest living relative would be a fire-breathing Patti Smith -- there's a similar sense of driven purpose, but more importantly, a similar sense of breaking rules without actually being aware that there were any rules to begin with. There's also a spark in common with the early angry Dylan, but with one major difference. When he passed this way, it was still called "Desolation Row." Farren's here to see the supermarket they built on the site. But in truth, it's really the Deviants revisited, older and crankier and taking full advantage of a modern world which makes that which bred their original fury seem benevolent (not to mention naïve, arcane, and horribly idealistic) by comparison. Back then, after all, it was only the Pigs you had to watch out for. Today, if you're paying sufficient attention, everyone's out to get you.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson