[sic] Magazine

RAY – Death in fiction

The guitars hooked me but those vocals reeled me in. London-based quartet RAY announce their arrival with the splendid album Death In Fiction. Loaded with personality and charm, RAY are a refreshing reminder that music was once stylish and enjoyable. If today’s music scene is a bandwagon of banal pub rock and post-punk wannabe’s then RAY are the highwaymen lying in ambush. Brazen and unabashed, there’s no shame about RAY.

Four-piece, RAY are underpinned by the songwriting axis of brothers Mark (guitars) and Nev Bradford (lyrics). If I delve into the guitar intriquicies there is a very real danger of drifting into cliché and parody but I’m sorry, these strings DO ache and bleed. They’re their own character in this very particular story. At various times Mark Bradford brings to mind Bernard Butler, Noel Gallagher and even David Gilmour.

These licks paint a perfect (lost) highway for our vehicle, our vessel, namely the tinder-dry timbre of front man Nev Bradford. Following in the rich tradition of Scott Walker, Tom Waits and Nick Cave, Bradford might well be a great new 21st Century troubadour in the making. His swaggering baritone and faux pomposity are a close approximation of the wonderful Neil Hannon. Higher praise is difficult to conjure but RAY are no Divine Comedy. While it is true that the band explores those same twin arches of tragedy and comedy, RAY has devised its own distinct brand of theatrics. Their closest contemporaries may be cult Norwegians, Madrugada.

Death in Fiction is predominantly anthemic. There’s a touch of blues certainly – a shade of psychedelia and a sprinkling of Americana but make no mistake, RAY rock. Western-tinged rather than Country RAY wouldn’t be cowboys. Instead they’re the ‘Dude’ – suited, booted and double-cuffed. They are riders on the storm. They are the pride at the heart of a man. They are motorcycle emptiness. They’re a funeral service for the Big Bopper’s Cadillac. They are Rialto’s faded glamour. They are a 16-year-old single malt. They are Folsom Prison Blues and they are Destroy the Heart.

RAY are gasoline-soaked and smoking a Lucky Strike. They are The National’s older brothers record collections. They are Tindersticks, fronted by Brel. If you knew them before Death in Fiction then you have the advantage over me. Personally, this is the find of the year.