the Ray-Guns - "Talentless Fools"
Booya!! Records

Straight off, this CD sounds good. Compared to the other more notable albums in the local ska scene (O'Phil's Freako Suave, the Norman 360's self-titled cassette, and the Gadjits' first - Da Gravy on Yo' Grits) this is by far the most polished. It sounds every bit like a professional album should - much props to Robert Rebeck at Mercy Studios.

And the musicianship really benefits from that professionalism. Thanks to the work that went into Talentless Fools, nothing gets lost or muddled in the mix. The vocals aren't drowned out by the guitar, the horns don't overpower everything, and the drums stay in the background, but don't disappear.

That said, the actual band is pretty talented, despite what the title may say. The album is basic ska-punk, but tighter and more focused. Rather than alternating between straight ska and straight punk songs, like Less Than Jake, the Ray-Guns do a fine job of incorporating both elements into all of their songs.

The songs are all very catchy and radio-friendly. "One Night Stand" is especially  good, with a sing-along chorus that stuck in my head for about a week after hearing it. All the songs have a very story-like quality to them, making them rather personal. "Memorized Your #" is a song to which many guys should be able to relate, dealing with a crush on a girl who already has a boyfriend.

The title track,"Talentless Fool," also deals with girls, this time about the stupid stuff we males do to impress them. The songs all move along at a very punk pace, going through fourteen tracks in just a little over half an hour. They're propelled by the great and furious guitar work of Mike Conner and the pounding drums of George Valyer. The horn section is nice and strong, and is really well-utilized. They have a very distinct sound (except for the horn refrain on "Never Be (U-Foes)" which sounds like it was lifted from the Toasters' "I'm Running Right Through the World").

The vocals on this recording are nice, but nothing special. Travis Bechtold isn't awful or bad, just middle-of-the-road, which is too bad, since they sound much better in live performance - where Travis really lets go. On this recording, it sounds more like he's talking than really singing. Part of this is due to some "vocal fattening" effects used in the studio - which sound fine, if you haven't seen their live show. Those of you who have, will quickly noticed the difference in vocals.

All in all, this is a very worthwhile addition to any ska fan's CD collection. It is also a great representation of the impressive talent in the local scene.