SPRING BREAK!!!! Not a concept we really have in the UK; our youngsters just call it the Easter holidays and are normally so stressed out of their mind by the endless barrage of exams, coursework and University applications, that they spend more of it sitting inside than drinking Tequila straight from the bottle in Cancun. However over on the other side of the pond, Spring Break is, or at least movies and The Simpsons tell us, is still a rite of passage for students everywhere.
But before we get too up in arms about these rich American college kids descending on Mexico to party hardy, we should first acknowledge that the history of raucously welcoming Spring pre-dates America by thousands of years. Celebrating the season of fertility, new life and dusting off the cobwebs of winter, actually goes back to the days of Ancient Greece. The coming of Spring happened to coincide with the holy day of Dionysus, the god of wine, or best god as we like to call him. We can only presume that much wine was consumed, although whether everyone got sun burnt and passed out in their pool would be pure speculation.
The tradition of Spring Break was adopted by America back in the 1930’s, and is often credited with Colgate University swimming coach, Sam Ingram. His innocent intention was to give his young aquatic disciples the chance to swim at the nation’s first Olympic size swimming pool. From there a marketing genius decided to host an annual get together of the best college swim teams each year, and by the time the hedonistic 1960’s rolled around, the clichéd raunchy antics, copious amounts of alcohol and diving from balconies were well and truly entrenched into the American psyche. Spring Break remains popular to this day, even if cheap flights to Mexico and the Caribbean have to some extent moved the party away from its Florida origins.
One band definitely not taking a Spring Break is Oakland’s RAYS, who are set to release their self-titled debut album this week on the excellent Trouble In Mind label. RAYS are something of a supergroup, composed of four Bay Area musicians whose previous musical credits include working with the likes of The World, Life Stinks, Violent Change, & Dadfag.
Citing influences from Wire to Terry, musically RAYS walk the line of abrasive, nihilistic punk and melodic alt-pop. Across their debut album, RAYS showcase their winning blend of melody and angularity, at times recalling the proto-punk stomp of Sauna Youth, at others drifting into the strutting, odd-ball pop of Cate Le Bon. Pain and Sorrow blends the bright jangle of The Chills with an ominously noisy background hum, equal parts harmonies and disconcerting, while recent single, Made Of Shadows is an energetic, blast of gorgeous lo-fi post-punk. Best of all might just be closing track, Over and Over; singer Eva’s vocals having some of the weary, melancholy of Nico as, over a backdrop of rattling cymbals she casts an eye over the repetitive mundanity of modern living, noting, “your needs don’t exist, your mind is an inconvenience, stand right here, do one thing only, and just keep doing it over and over, don’t complain every day is the same, and you’ll received cheques bi-weekly”.
On their debut, RAYS pull off that most difficult of tricks, creating an album full of the searing energy of punk, and without falling into a trap of despondency or anger. There’s a political edge to the way they look at the difficulty of modern living, filtered through a spectrum of humour, and they seem to revel in the more absurd elements of life in all its everyday languor. In doing so they’ve created a record that gazes to the musical past but still comes out sounding entirely relevant in 2017.
Taking some time out from preparing to release their sparkling debut album, RAYS have taken some time out to put together a mixtape they describe as, “the ultimate spring break playlist”. The mix puts together some seasonally appropriate songs the band have been enjoying lately, including the likes of Orange Juice, Public Image Ltd and Nick Lowe.
1. Orange Juice – Holiday Hymn
2. Victor Allen – Tomorrow Is My Destiny
3. Nick Lowe – I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass
4. The Nerves – Are You Famous
5. Peter Ivers – Miraculous Weekend
6. Cooley & Munson – Sightly Sue
7. Neil Young – Barstool Blues
8. Public Image Limited – Low Life
RAYS’ self-titled debut album is out March 31st via Trouble In Mind – click HERE for more information.