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Venus Ray | Chuck Berry vs IBM (Negative)
The intersection of the duck-walking elder statesman of showy R&R and the international box shifter - of old fashioned guitar twang and technological trickery - is enough of an approximation of where this record wants to be, coming as it does bathed in both riffs and playful electronics. It's a collision that sometimes complements, sometimes engulfs the songs. The fact that this positioning comes at the expense of quality is only a problem if you're someone who still thinks songs are important to pop music (even pop music with aspirations.) Mixing the riff-based brainlessness of a less-outre version of the Cramps with a continual bubbling production presence, it's difficult to escape the feeling that it's a device to spice up some very conservative (which is not necessarily to say second rate) songwriting. And if the title points to Venus Ray's simultaneous concern with things both retro and futurist then it begs the question what about the present, the Now? Free of soul or any axe to grind or, it seems, really anything to articulate, they're left with little to communicate other than the fact that they know their way around a studio. I like any band that namechecks itself as Venus Ray do in Voyage to the Moon, but ultimately, like the lyrics to I Want To Be A Car, behind the wry, glance-to-camera cleverness this is a record that seems, finally, rather heart-less.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001