Pop music rarely gets more fun than The Deathray Davies. Each of their albums, from Let’s Drink With the Grown Ups and Listen to Jazz to Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory, is packed tightly with tooth-achingly sweet pop confections and the catchiest melodies this side of a Bee Gees record, without the falsettos and facial hair. Just as impressive live, the touring version of the band will ensure you have a good time, having been known to play Sly Stone’s “It’s a Family Affair” over the PA between songs while a police light spins about the stage and band members trade plastic fire hats. Sound fun yet?
Maybe the Dallas-based band’s new album, The Kick and the Snare, will convince you. The latest vessel for frontman (and sole permanent member) John Dufilho’s songwriting sees more of the infectious three-chord wonders the band is known for. As opposed to 2003’s Midnight album, however, Kick is more streamlined, simplified and to the point. There are no song segues, recurring altered melodies and themes. It’s just a terrific, straightforward pop album.
If you want to hear it straight to the point, here’s the story: there isn’t a song on this album that isn’t a hand-clapping singalong good time. When unwrapped, every song reveals its delicious chewy nougat center. There’s no shortage of rumbling tom-tom rhythms, razor sharp guitar riffs, Dufilho’s witty verses (like his declaration that “honesty is the ship that sunk this song” in “The Fall Fashions”) and the perpetual summertime party vibe that the album emits.
But with any party comes a few moments that stand out just a little more than the others. The first of those is the aforementioned “The Fall Fashions,” driven by pronounced horn section leads. Next in line is the high-speed punk-pop number “Plan to Stay Awake.” There’s rock `n’ roll riffage abound on “Clock in Now,” in which Dufilho channels his inner Jimmy Page. The horrorpop suspense of “Chainsaw” is rockin’ and hilarious, as Dufilho sings “I got a chainsaw/at the pawn shop/cha cha cha.” Paying homage to the leatherfaced lunatic of their own state (fictional of course), The Deathray Davies make a killing spree sound like a blast, an idea that hasn’t been visited since Rocket From the Crypt’s “Killy Kill.” All these film studios capitalizing on the newfound popularity of bad teen horror flicks should approach these Texans before their next big budget production.
Newcomers and long-time fans alike will take to this album just as easily as anything the band’s done before. It may not be as eclectic or sonically varied as Midnight, but even in a simplified format, The Deathray Davies maintains a high standard of tunefulness. The Kick and the Snare is just plain classic pop music, `nuff said.
Fountains of Wayne – Utopia Parkway
Sloan – One Chord to Another
The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.