Gemma Ray - It's A Shame About Gemma Ray
It would be all too easy to cast a Rotten like gimlet eye over the music industry and conclude that it’s a damning indictment of creativity that one of the most engaging and exciting albums of recent months is one populated entirely by cover versions. That would be a gross disservice to Gemma Ray who mercilessly hunts down and subjugates each and every one of these sixteen tracks to her will. This is no facile attempt to catch a departing train but an obvious labour of love born of a whim which saw Ray record the whole album in the brief hiatus between Xmas and New Year 2009. For the most part the album hangs upon nothing more than Ray and her reverb saturated, raked guitar yet she contrives to not only cover tracks by such luminaries as Buddy Holly and Mudhoney but to completely own them. Face value comparisons to Polly Jean are inevitable but there’s a whirlwind of ideas underpinning this apparently simple collection, resulting in a suffocating shoegaze traipse through Lee Hazlewood’s ‘I’d Rather Be Your Enemy’ and an intensely claustrophobic take on Holly’s ‘Every Day’. It’s comforting to know that somewhere out there is an artist ready to take on Sonic Youth and leave them seeming rather tame by comparison, or to re-imagine some classic 1930s Yiddish pop music (banned by the Nazis, no less). Even tracks with obvious commercial appeal, like the old school rockabilly-lite of ‘Just Because’, are left subverted with some mindwarping Hammond organ invasions. Best of the bunch, however, is her charming breeze through the Cookies ‘Only To Other People’. Fucked up, back to basics rock n roll. I’ve found somebody to love, there’s hope for the human race yet.