For fans of Californian soul punks The Bellrays, Black Lightning will be nothing new, having been released in the States back in 2010. It’s taken three long years for an Australian distributor to pick up the slack, but the wait is finally over. It’s wasn’t as if the music has aged – The Bellrays’ penchant for garage rock anthems buoyed by the jawdropping vocals of Lisa Kekaula has been a mainstay since their inception over 20 years ago, and it ain’t likely to change either.
Opening up with the blistering title track, Black Lightning is clearly a more driving Bellrays entry than its 2008 predecessor Hard, Sweet And Sticky – but only just. Single On Top is a sexualised number that has Kekaula playing with her overpowering presence, giving a devilish grin as she caresses your… psyche. Hell On Earth takes no prisoners, burning the ozone in sub-two minutes, whilst Power To Burn takes a MOR rock stance and pumps it up with an overdriven guitar. There are moments of respite – a strings-laden Sun Comes Down shows the more overt soulful influences and actually complements On Top, the sweet with the sultry; Anymore a crooner that would be a mainstream radio mainstay if anyone cared to present it.
But that’s The Bellrays – an uncompromising force, unwilling to kowtow to fads and trends, only aiming to rock and/or roll. The triptych of Living A Lie, Everybody Get Up and Close Your Eyes throw everything into overdrive; The Way eases up for a swinging slab of spirit; then MC5’s Wayne Kramer joins the fray, closing out with You Took Me By Surprise. The world turns; The Bellrays rock on.
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