Welcome to the Strange and Erotic World of the American Death Ray

American Death Ray

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Welcome to the Strange and Erotic World of the American Death Ray Review

by Karen E. Graves

The debut record from Memphis, TN's American Death Ray was a welcome return to the forefront of the dirty rock scene by Nicholas Ray. Having earned his stripes during the time he spent slinging an ax for the seminal '68 Comeback (under the name Nicky Diablo), Ray honed his wild chord massacres into a sleeker onslaught of sly rhythm so raw it'd make the devil himself cut a rug. If a song like "Make Me Sick" doesn't make you want to shake your ass, nothing will.

Not since the always underappreciated and late, lamented Oblivians/Compulsive Gamblers has a band so effortlessly fused the best parts of R&B, soul, garage, and good ol'-fashioned rock & roll into such a brazen, wild, and somehow lovable ruckus. However, whereas the Oblivians seemed more concerned with pure aggression tempered with blues, Death Ray try to keep things dancier and sexier, in their own weird way. A glimmer of glam rock sparkles through the otherwise grimy mix, and the outcome is an instantly endearing amalgam of the Velvet Underground and Memphis sleaze rock (highlighted by "Black Dahlia").

A strong effort brimming with the evangelical power of rock & roll, Welcome to the Strange & Erotic World of the American Death Ray easily surpasses the majority of the ham-fisted blues schlock being passed of as part of the new wave of garage revivalism. Picking up where sax-driven numbers like "Rockets" left off, Death Ray's scorching sophomore effort, Smash Radio Hits, followed in 2002 with a more streamlined, confident, and powerful sound that made Welcome seem tame by comparison. American Death Ray is essentially all of the best things about Sympathy for the Record Industry, and a few improvements, all rolled up into one package. Yeah.

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