Three unique bands celebrate CDs in an extraordinary way
The Boston Globe, May 26, 2006
Baby Ray, Sool, and the Weisstronauts -- otherwise known as three of the area's cleverest, most idiosyncratic bands -- are doing something suitably idiosyncratic and clever. They're holding not one, not two, but three CD-release parties simultaneously tomorrow night at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge.
Given the myriad musicians who'll be sharing the Lizard's parlorlike stage, and the fact that all three bands share several members -- now that's teamwork! -- we thought we'd provide readers with a thumbnail sketch /refresher course concerning the principals. Now you can keep score of who's who while you're being entertained. Don't say we didn't ever do anything for you.
Considered at the turn of the century among Boston's best practitioners of XTC-ish prog-pop, Baby Ray returns with its fourth disc, "Low Rises," after a long layoff that followed its split with New York indie Thirsty Ear. The original foursome (singer-bassist Erich Groat, singer-guitarist Ken Lafler, bassist Paul Simonoff, drummer Nathan Logus) has found a new home with Philadelphia's Dren Records.
The bulk of "Low Rises" was originally recorded in 1999 in the Adirondack Mountains where, as Groat puts it, "we saw lots of wild turkeys, drank lots of Wild Turkey, chased a moose, and nearly fell off a high dam." The CD represents a triumph for a band that also seemed to fall precipitously from hard-won heights.
"This album really had to fight for its life," says Lafler. "It sat on the shelf for a lot of reasons that must have made sense at the time but make so little sense now that I can't remember them. A few years later, Erich and I revisited this stuff and realized that it was a damn fine record." A reunion show last year brought the project back into focus.
"Low Rises" is signature Baby Ray, spring-loaded with pretzel-shaped chord progressions, Groat's Scrabble wordplay, and a keen pop sensibility that's equal parts snark and sincerity. Despite the fact that each of its members play with other bands (Logus drums for the Boston glam-soul band the Rudds, for example, and Simonoff plays keyboards for Boston's Francine), there remains a special chemistry to Baby Ray. Just don't ask the band to explain what that is.
"We don't know -- at least I don't know," says Groat. "It seems to have nothing to do with us, even though [the sound ] relies crucially on us."