Elsewhere by Graham Reid

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Wide angle reviews, interviews and opinion by writer Graham Reid

Gemma Ray: Island Fire (Shock)

Gemma Ray: Flood and a Fire
Gemma Ray: Island Fire (Shock)

At a time when many young bands and singers seem nostalgic for an Eighties pop they never knew, it's refreshing in a weird way this British singer -- here on her third album -- is prepared to trawl rather more widely.

Gemma Ray effortlessly notches up references to an oddball take on Fifties pop ( the delightful shoop-shoop ballad sound of "you should, should" Put Your Brain in Gear "before you open up your mouth") as much as swirling and slightly mad take on dreamy sci-fi psychedelia (Troup de Loup) and surf-influenced psychedelics (the languid Make it Happen).

In addition she has collaborated with Sparks on their How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall? and Eaten by the Monster of Love.

She also has a nice line in hook-you lyrics: "I thought you were sleeping, you seemed as right as rain the day before, I never dreamt you wouldn't wake, I never dreamt that you would take them all" which opens to a guitar-twang on Runaway which then morphs into a moody pop ballad.

And on Fire House: "The fire in the house went on for days and days, I was in the bedroom sleeping . . ." All that sounding rather chipper over piano and again girl-group backing vocals.

The ballad Flood and a Fire, and I Can See You, are all tremolo guitar beamed in from Twin Peaks, and Rescue Me is a dreamy, echo laden nod to girl groups of the late Fifties/early Sixties. Bring Ring Ring Yeah is chirpy pop, sort of.

More than the sum of these influences, Gemma Ray manages (by virtue of unusual lyrics and sheer self-confidence) to ceate something distinctive out of this melange.

Not an essential album by any means, but with each song a distinctive stand-alone unit and those dramatic electro-pop Sparks tracks at the end, this one will definitely keep your attention the whole way.

Strange, in a good way. 

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