Happy is not a word in Ray’s dictionary, even if the word appears in the title of this much anticipated first album.
In the four years that followed their First Light mini album which brought them to prominence, Ray have garnered a steady reputation for their brand of melodic, very British, very folky sound.
Deep Blue Happy is filled with the kind of songs which compliment staring out of a laundrette’s steamy windows on a wet day, contemplating life’s ills.
“If everybody wept at the same old time, would a river of salt thick water run to the sea…” so Blood Gold optimistically sets the tone for the album.
It wouldn’t be so bad if there was some variation, but literally from these opening lines, Deep Blue Happy is a slogging 46 minute wallow into nothingness.
Despite it having astute production, and singer Nev Bradford’s delicate vocals being one of the most distinctive and finest to register of late, the marriage of the two make for an unholy, unsightly matrimony. This is partly due to Bradford’s strong, semi-church band semi-Celtic vocals.
By Hall of Mirrors reverb-heavy plod, you’re reduced to screaming inside yourself, waiting for the boring readings bit at mass to be done with, and for the bread and wine to be dished out.
The aforementioned two had distinct sounds and branched them out considerably, often experimentally. That’s not to say an album has to have the latter, but it at least needs some variation. The slightest hint, or attempt, comes on Half Dreaming which ups the tempo ever so slightly into roaming melodic rock.
If one thing may work in Ray’s favour, it was that Deep Blue Happy was misplaced following its recording in 2003 thus holding it up by a few years, just as British music is crying for a shoe gazing, instrumentally driven band. Given that there is only so much more angular, post-punk, post Libertines kafuffle that can possibly last during this cycle before we head into the next point, perversely this may allow Ray to slip in via the back door.
It’s already started, with smatterings of love from both the high and low brow press. Does this may me woefully wrong or stubbornly right? Maybe. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.