Last post from me in the great Spring Solo clash, slightly anti-climatic as my favourite bit of lead/solo isn’t on YouTube…
Anyway that unavailable piece is Collision by Mark Stewart and the Mafia, which manages to sound primordially unholy and scorchingly futuristic at the same time as it rears up, phases, flanges, pinwheels, screams and vaporizes like a malfunctioning Destructobot!
Course that then opens up the question of the work of Skip McDonald…
Which I’ll sidestep for the moment and pay tribute to a somewhat more minor but still underrated guitarist, East Bay Ray from the Dead Kennedys.
Now I hadn’t listened to The Dead Kennedys for about twenty years up to two or three years ago when I bought Fresh Fruit For Rotting Veg for Ping (she doesn’t like them, it turns out) and I was struck by how, really, the best thing about the record is East Bay Ray.
The single Holiday in Cambodia would seem to showcase all his best moves, from the moody patch of opening dissonance through those long, scything, intensely dramatic, phosphorescent arcs he carves out, on into the solo and the slide guitar rupturing into the frazzled fretboard scribble at the end.
But there is also the floating, luminous solo that suddenly balloons up out of nowhere on Let’s Lynch the Landlord.
A lot of the time, even when he gets co-opted into mundane thrash-a-longs (probably by Biafra he says, with no real justification whatsoever. The Spleen has an excellent Biafra anecdote which kind of confirms all your worst expectations though) like the version of Viva Las Vegas , he manages to poke his head above the trenches with some cheeky, staccato guitar lines, or the gothic surf rock irruption in When You Get Drafted.
The other great early tracks for EBR are Police Truck’s trebly spaghetti-western Wipeout and the way Too Drunk to Fuck’s Fiftie’s cop show riff explodes into bursts of klaxoning shrapnel. There’s obvious elements of pastiche in his sound but he’s also smart, strange, unexpected and keen to experiment.
It’s kind of a shame that East Bay Ray wasn’t in a better band really.*
*I’m sure there’s good stuff on both Plastic Surgery Disasters and Frankenchrist too, but I just haven’t got round to relistening to them.