Except for the name, this crude garage band from Youngstown, Ohio owes little to the Velvet Underground. In fact, Sister Ray doesn’t seem nearly selfconscious enough about their proletarian retro-rock to want to shoulder such heavy cultural baggage. On Random Violence, guitarists Mark Hanley and Greg Cadman rip up the floorboards with old-fashioned Midwest moxie while Sam D’Angelo has the right idea (if not the right voice) for sneery, snarly punk. (The album contains four tracks from pre-LP singles, including the four-song 7-inch Coming to Terms.)
Dropping Cadman to become a quartet, Sister Ray fills the self-produced No Way to Express with no-nonsense music and all-nonsense lyrics (like “Beef Pud,” “Sex,” “I Don’t Want Your Sex,” “Sick of Skulls,” etc.). Whether these guys reckon they’re capturing the ’60s rebel zeitgeist or just don’t know any better, such juvenile expressions of hostility just don’t cut it. (The CD includes eight tracks from Random Violence.)
Sam D’Angelo and his bass-playing brother Joe get up to their old lyrical tricks on To Spite My Face, penning obvious putdowns (“Piss Off and Die”), obvious grossouts (“Worms,” “Doctor #9”) and original songs that use classic titles. (They recycled “A Day in the Life” on No Way to Express; this go-round includes “One Step Beyond” and “20th Century Boy.”) While the energetic record has blisteringly loud sound and some stupendous Hanley guitar work, a total lack of style and atmosphere dooms Sister Ray’s artless simplicity to sub-generic mediocrity.