What besides the electric guitar, in nature or technology, can sound so much like flatulence and also sound so beautiful? Only a few guitarists -- Keith Richards, Johnny Ramone -- can make you wonder such a thing. The cover story of the latest from the Bellrays -- the Riverside, California, foursome with the chutzpah to launch themselves with the slogan "Maximum Punk 'n' Soul" and then bellyache when they're pigeonholed -- is that Tony Fate proves himself a guitar hero. The style is all his own, though not without references. It's somewhere on the messiest part of a plate piled with Ramones meat, sweet Stax potatoes and a spacy aftertaste where the wine spilled in (also an apt description of the overall sound of the band). And Fate's triumph isn't the only news here: On the band's fifth album -- and the best rock album of the young year -- the anger is more articulate, the compassion warmer, the tunes catchier. The Bellrays do one rare thing, better and better.
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