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Non-Prog CD Reviews

East Bay Ray And The Killer Smiles

East Bay Ray And The Killer Smiles

Review by Gary Hill

The most obvious comparison for this disc is the Dead Kennedys. That’s because East Bay Ray is probably best known for his work as the guitarist of that band. Since it’s the obvious route, I’ve avoided that one here except when it’s too in your face to ignore. The truth is, Ray was always influenced by hard rock along with rockabilly, surf music and other styles. All of those show up at different points along this road. Whatever the influences, though, it’s a great disc.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
Raising The Stakes

A fast paced punk tune, there’s a lot of retro rock on this, but it also makes me think of something from The Cramps, or perhaps even The Lords of the New Church. They change things up a bit here and there to keep it interesting, and these guys show they have a lot of talent.
Lipstick Cherry Red
Here’s a cut that’s even more retro in nature. It’s more of a mellow piece and has some hints of Ramones-like cool. It’s definitely fun.
You're Such A Fake
More of a pure punk inspired by retro rock makes up this killer tune. There’s some tasty guitar soloing on show here.
Area 51
Imagine a slower Dead Kennedys with a cleaner production and you’ll be in the general neighborhood of this rocker.
The Heart Is Something
Although there’s still a punk sneer on the vocals, this cut is really a 1950s styled balladic cut. It’s so much more about pop rock than it is about punk rock. The guitar solo is very retro and very tasty.
It's Broken
From the least punk song of the set, they jump into the most aggressive piece. This feels a bit like thrash or The Dead Kennedys. It’s a real screamer that seems even more furious coming after the mellow number that preceded it. There are some great riffs on this.
I'm A User
Although this cut is slower, it’s no less punk in nature. In fact, it’s one of the few numbers with parental warning in terms of the lyrics. It’s angry yet catchy.
The Runner
There’s a super heavy chord that opens this, making it feel like it’s about to launch into a heavy metal number. It drops down to a cool groove that’s very retro and also very much like something from the Lords of the New Church blended with the Doors. The bass line really drives this piece and there’s a killer expansive guitar solo later.
The Last Time You Failed
More pure punk starts this tune. It’s a cool punk rock tune that again calls to mind The Cramps a bit.
Safe And Sound
Here we get some reggae on the introduction. There are more of the usual suspects on display at various points in the cut, but overall this is a bit of a change.
The Hardest Part
A killer rock and roll groove merges with the standard punk rock sounds on this, one of the most accessible cuts.
16 Tons
Ray and the crew put in a cool cover of the old Tennessee Ernie Ford tune. It’s a classy way to end things.
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