The BellRays & Reviews of Tom Petty and Pharrell

California garage rockers The BellRays stop by the studio for a performance and conversation. Plus, Jim and Greg review the latest release from rock vet Tom Petty and the first solo effort from Neptunes producer Pharrell.

The Bellrays
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One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This New York Dolls

One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This

After disbanding over 30 years ago, glam punk legends the New York Dolls are back with a new album, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. Though the band’s first incarnation existed for only a few years, its influence is undeniable. As Jim and Greg explain, without the Dolls, we wouldn’t have the Sex Pistols. Heck, we may not even have had Morrissey, who got the Dolls together in 2004 for London’s Meltown Festival. The sole surviving Dolls, David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter) and Sylvain Sylvain, came together for this album. Upon hearing of this latest effort, Jim and Greg were both excited and fearful. Now, after hearing it, they can say that their worries were not in vain. Jim loves the old Dolls, and can’t understand how the band that made One Day It Will Please Us can even call themselves the New York Dolls. For Jim, it’s a Trash It. Greg is a little more forgiving. He thinks that the 2006 Dolls come off like a pretty good cover band, and can’t completely bash them. He gives the album a Burn It rating.

In My Mind Pharrell

In My Mind

The next album up for review is by superstar producer Pharrell. Pharrell Williams is best known as part of the production duo The Neptunes, who have crafted hits for everyone from Jay-Z to Justin Timberlake. He and partner Chad Hugo also recorded some of their own music as N.E.R.D. Now, Pharrell has branched out solo (or as solo as a hip-hop artist can be these days) with In My Mind. A quick glance at the number of hits credited to Pharrell might make this album seem like a no-brainer. But it festered without a release date for such a long time that it raised some eyebrows. And, after giving the record a listen, Jim and Greg can say that those suspicions were not unwarranted. Greg explains that for someone who makes his living creating innovative beats and catchy hooks, the lack of such a sound on this record was shocking. Jim agrees, and neither critic thinks that Williams has the chops or personality to be a solo star. Kanye West, a producer who actually managed this feat, collaborates with Pharrell on Number One, but it’s a dreadful showing from both artists. In My Mind gets a Trash It—and Sound Opinions wonders if Chad is the genius to look out for after all.

The BellRays

Californiagarage rockers The BellRays join Jim and Greg in the studio this week. Some listeners may be hearing of the band for the first time (as our hosts explain, they are a group on the rise). The BellRays gained attention at festivals like SXSW and through their appearance in a Nissan Xterra commercial, but many people may only be familiar with lead singer Lisa Kekaula’s side projects: Her powerful voice has been lent to Crystal Method, Basement Jaxx, and a recent MC5 reunion tour.

No one should doubt that The BellRays is a collaborative effort, though. The band’s fifth album, Have a Little Faith, was produced by bassist Bob Vennum (who happens to be Lisa’s husband), and most of the songs were written by guitarist Tony Fate. These three are joined by drummer Craig Waters to achieve a sound that is hard to describe. Many clichés have been attached to the group’s music, which our hosts decided to call part Tina Turner, part MC5. It’s all fine with the band; just don’t say they’re from Detroit.

Highway Companion Tom Petty

Highway Companion

The hosts return to rock critic mode and review Tom Petty’s new solo record, Highway Companion. This is Petty’s 18th album in a 30-year career, though only three of these releases have been solo efforts. According to Jim and Greg, Highway Companion is not just a solo record in name. Petty played almost all of the instruments and wrote all of the songs, and the album reflects that. Many of the songs sound like Petty wrote them alone in his bedroom while trying to work out the travails of his past, like a bitter divorce and the death of former Heartbreaker Howie Epstein. The result is a quiet, rather dark album that both Jim and Greg found very moving (albeit sleepy). Petty comes off as rather sad, but also hopeful, and Greg muses that perhaps it is the music providing him comfort. Highway Companion gets two Buy Its.

Jim

In order to remove the bad taste left by the New York Dolls’ recent showing, Jim decides to return to a happier time with this week’s Desert Island Jukebox pick. Even after the Dolls broke up, lead singer David Johansen never failed to deliver—especially live, as Jim found out after attending a 1982 show (illegally). The then-underage critic was mesmerized by Johansen’s energetic performance of songs like this week’s DIJ track, Frenchette. While most of the Dolls’ songs were short, classic punk tunes, Frenchette clocks in at over five minutes and is more in tune with the stadium anthems of the era. The song is a witty play on the notion of something being not quite what it should: not love, but lovette; not leather, but leatherette; not French, but Frenchette. The song was written by Johansen and fellow Doll Sylvain Sylvain. This proves that the two men were capable of doing great work post-Dolls, prompting Jim to wonder why they can’t create the same magic today. Both Jim and Greg put out an open invitation for the Dolls to come get some medicine from the rock doctors.

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