May 18, 2005

The Deathray Davies "The Kick & The Snare"

Quietly, The Deathray Davies have become one of Dallas' best-kept secrets. Led by the mysterous and prolific John Dufilho, since 1999 the Davies have released a handful of really great albums, such as 2003's Midnight At The Black Nail Polish Factory and The Day Of The Ray. Their style's always been extremely catchy indie-rock with a bit of a pop-punk edge; playing shows with Guided by Voices, Superchunk and Superdrag placed them rightly among their peers, even if they weren't necessarily mature enough to eat with them at the grown-up table. If there's one flaw with the Davies' enjoyable formula, it's that they don't really change their formula.

A not-uncommon complaint heard around Dallas, though, is that while their records are good, they don't sound radically different from previous records, nor do their songs really sound all that different. Maybe someone tipped off Dufilho, because their fifth album The Kick and The Snare rocks the Deathray Davies' boat in a major--and quite welcome--way. Don't think that they've changed their formula, though--if anything, they've simply delved deeper into the pop elements only hinted at on previous records. The result? An album that stays true to their past sound, yet completely overhauls it and updates it and makes it stronger than ever before. They might be accused of being formulaic, but at least they've improved their formula.

It's obvious from the first seconds of album opener "The Fall Fashions" that The Deathray Davies have grown too big for their pop britches; the guitar riffs are deeper, heavier than before, but it's the piano and horn section that really signal a new chapter in Dufilho's musical career. Luckily, it's uphill from there, as the rest of The Kick and The Snare offers plenty of magical moments that will leave your toe a-tappin'. From the lazy shuffle of "Stumble" to the sweet "In Circles" and the romantic "I'll Sing A Sweeter Song Tomorrow," it might feel as if Dufilho's mellowed out, but the frantic "Clock In Now" and heavy-hitting "Alaska" prove otherwise. The album's true winning moment is "Plan To Stay Awake," a frentic, overcaffeinated rocker that's reminiscent of the Joe Jackson Band's best moments.

It's amazing what kind of magic some people can make with only the most basic of ingredients, and John Dufilho's certainly cooked up some wonderful pop treats. The Kick and The Snare is easily The Deathray Davies' finest hour. It's an enjoyable slab of ear-candy that never loses its freshness.

--Joseph Kyle

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