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The BellRays: Black Lightning

Californians play rock and roll, Stax and soul.

Twenty one years in the making, Riverside residents (it’s a small Californian city that’s a mecca for fruit pickers, if you’re looking for seasonal work) The BellRays have made an album that might define them yet.

Not that they care, looking like supply teachers fronted by the enigmatic, swaggering Lisa Kekaula (who you might know from her work with Basement Jaxx), they’ve bounced from label to label for the duration of their career.

Even this late in the day they’re still holding up a metaphorical finger to the world. Their fire’s self-evident in the grooves of Black Lightning; Power To Burn’s first thirty seconds could be The Damned’s Neat Neat Neat before opening up in a throaty evocation of self-belief that could be mere bluster in some bands’ hands, but it’s more than believable here.

Airbourne should listen to Everybody Get Up and take notes before they record another album, as this is raucous, sleazy, emphatic and fun. Not that they could capture the pulsing, Stax groove of Sun Comes Down or the delicious swing of The Way, mind.

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion. He ghosted Carl Barat’s acclaimed autobiography, Threepenny Memoir, and helped launch the BBC 6 Music network as producer and co-presenter on the Phill Jupitus Breakfast Show. Five years later he and Jupitus fronted the hugely popular Perfect 10 podcast and live shows. His debut novel, Cross Country Murder Song, was described, variously, as ‘sophisticated and compelling’ and ‘like a worm inside my brain’. His latest novel The Death And Life Of Red Henley is out now.