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  The Kick and the Snare  
  The Deathray Davies  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

I'm a bad, bad reviewer. Yeah, it's been a busy hectic year for me in my real life, and our other Sponge-minions have also been very productive, which keeps me busy as an editor. But I made a wretched discovery as I sat down to write my 2005 Best of List. You see, some 7 months ago, I received a copy of The Deathray Davies' most recent release, The Kick and the Snare. I immediately fell in love with the album, played it a whole bunch, saw the band live and never wrote the damn review. Doh! If I were a minion in the field, I'd kick myself.

With that out of the way (and with apologies to the band), let's get onto the business at hand: looking at one of the best albums of 2005.

The Kick and the Snare begins with The Fall Fashions, which is filled with the jangly guitars and garage-y rhythm that characterize The Deathray Davies' music. However, echoes of the fuller sound from Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory are evident in the horn section as well as the prominent keyboard mix. It's like the band combined the best, most raw tunes from their earlier efforts and brought in the more realized version of their sound which they discovered with their last album. Some of the combination may be due to the time the band took producing this album, which gives it a warm cohesive tone. As usual, bassist Jason Garner acts as the quintessential counterpoint to guitar/vocalist/songwriter John Dufilho. Yet the rest of the band (and The Deathray Davies are truly now a band, having played with more or less the same lineup for years) is also fully evident

The next song, Release the Squid (Box 6), continues along in the same vein, with slightly brittle guitars overlaid by that insistent bass as well as Robert Anderson's hard drumming and Chad Ferman's keys. As the music swells, it suddenly fades back into its component parts, over which Dufilho sings. This pattern again demonstrates the musicianship of the band and, again, I must point out that the balance and intricacy of the mix works to great effect.

With such an opening duo, one would almost expect to be let down in the ensuing tracks. But these are The Deathray Davies, so of course I am not. Plan to Stay Awake is a musically minimalist butrapid fire song of quick paced, tongue tripping lyrics which Dufilho manages to pull off. Afterwards, the band returns for the ubiquitous They Stuck Me in a Box in the Ground song. On this one, Part 7 of the series, the sound is a poppy, vocal heavy song which references the previous 6 songs. It's nicely done, and recalls some of the lo-fi moments of the band's earlier works.

The next real highlight of the album comes with Clock In Now, which is perhaps the band's signature track from this release. It again has the heavy thudding bass and drums, with fuzzed guitars that seem lower pitched than on the previous tracks. In the background you can hear the standalone percussion of Kevin Ingle and his maracas. It's a driving song with a clean mix and another horn section. Clock in Now transitions almost seamless into Chainsaw, a long time favorite of mine which includes the ought to be immortal opening line of "I got a chainsaw at the pawn, it works real nice. Chop. Chop. Chop." Although there is a sense of foreboding in the layers of sound and echo, this track is a great dance song, with a driven beat and continual references to chainsaw, ice picks, and other implements of destruction. I truly love it.

After the upbeat driving songs which have come before, In Circles is a bit of a departure. It begins with a single guitar riff, over which Dufilho sings a pretty little melody. Even as the rest of the band begins to come in, there is no wall of sound, only a minimal simplicity accented by keyboards and xylophone. It's a lovely little song that isn't very typical of the band, which makes all the more interesting. Then, the Deathray Davies move back towards their usual catchy songs as the album moves towards its close. For example, I'll Sing a Sweeter Song Tomorrow features a percussion part that wouldn't have been out of place on an early 60s girl group backing track. Likewise, A Calendar Crime combines Dufilho's higher range against a background of syncopated guitar chords and thudding bass.

The Kick and the Snare ends with Alaska, a longish song which begins with feedback and fuzz that creates the same sense of foreboding as on Chainsaw. From there, it becomes another driving song with minor notes and transitions emphatically played by the guitars and bass. With a touch of theremin and quick paced beat, it's a throbbing climax that bring the album to stunning close.

The Deathray Davies continue to play interesting and fun music, which makes it all the more criminal that they are so underappreciated and relatively unknown. The Kick and The Snare shows how their music has come together and matured, if you will, over the years, and the production on the album compliments and enhances their overall sound. This is quite frankly a great little record, which deserves wider exposure than it has received.

Related Links:

Previous releases:
     The Day of the Ray

    Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory
    At South by Southwest 2005
    Here in Atlanta in 2003


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