“ATLANTIS CASTLE MAGIC…” (-Calling Ray Sonic Hanson & The Sonic Whores Of Babylon, On A Public Saxophone….Up Early Listening To “Sonic Outlaws Empire Of Dirt, Glitter, & Perforated Electric Souls” By Ray Sonic Hanson & The Sonic Whores Of Babylon…. All Too Caffeinated Review by Anguish Young)
Hello Hooray, my darlings, I was just thinking to myself how the world is full of aging guitar heroes, and we thank all those who served honorably, in the real rocknroll Guitar Army for their service, in the war against the jive. Ask not what rocknroll can do for you, ask what you can do for rocknroll. Then, there are profoundly inspired artists who are the unheralded tastemakers and style-blazers and double secret figureheads of entire musical movements who determinedly continue to generate volumes of genius sounds, with or without, the permission of the Man, or the rightful appreciation of his ignorant hordes of brainwashed, spectacle worshipping warbots. Even if they ain’t got the proper credit in the controlled media, or big houses and guitar shaped swimming pools full of cocaine, to show for their epic ouvre.
Ray “Sonic” Hanson is revered by many as the principle action shaker behind the most powerful and revolutionary nineties rock band, Thee Hypnotics. After that remarkable band of heroic personalities set fire to a million clubs and theatres in their cross country American firestorm that culminated in some serious near death injuries, car crashes, guitar smashes, hotel room thrashes, booby flashes, suavely cut dashes, and widespread devoted acclaim among the real underground-music connoisseurs, the moody and mystical and mercurial and mysterious maestro, Brother Ray Hanson stepped away from the limelight and retreated back to The Lab where he spent the ensuing years composing thousands of songs in the noble tradition of all the greats from every era and musical genre, unbought and unbossed, and conspicuously unaffected by corny modern music fads. You can hear how the dude has not invested much time into absorbing any American Lifestyle Programming unreality tv shows, or following the headlines about rappers and rich kids in Spin Magazine‘s corporate junk TMZ faux celebrity, idle heiress, sic pack abs, diet pilled, pseudo culture. The whole artificially sweetened radio garbage and halftime hoes-down aesthetic is absent from his troves and troves of savage and subtle sounds.
Ever since White Stripes supposedly made “Garage” safe for jock douchebags and secretaries in the double 00’s, all the showbiz nephew festival brats have gotten tattooed and bought that Nuggets compilation box set on retro CD, but they all still sound like Green Day to me. Ray Hanson is a product of a night time, after hours, adult world, pre-Woodstock 99, he does not care about boy bands or lip synchers. His stuff runs the gamut-from dusty Cuban gun smoke blues ala Ry Cooder to Jimmy Page satanic majesty dragon taming and Billy Duffy death rock space surfing to Brother Morphine midnight mumblings in a messed up shack with no electricity. Parliament Funkadelic and the Yardbirds, “Funhouse”, and “So Alone”. His cover of “Where D’Ya Sleep Last Night”, the Leadbelly tune made famous by his buddy Kurt, sounds nothing like Cobain‘s version at all, he’s got Syd Barrett phoning-in harmonicas from the other side, it’s bent and brittle like early morning stonedout Keef, but abruptly pipes up with the jolting moodwings of jug-drunk Lightnin’ in a jealous rage, or a muttering John Lee yellin’ at his dog, in a spiteful mood. It’s feckin’ cool like shootin’ pool with Bo Diddley. He always does the unexpected. His cover of the Animals “Please Don’t Let me Be Misunderstood” sounds like it was recorded 3000 leagues underwater and sung with some desperate sense of vulnerability and sincerity to his gentle friends, the mermaids and the seahorses. “We Can Make It There (Better)” starts off with an archaic drum machine like some early Sisters Of Mercy, but acoustic guitars bang right in with a flowery summer of love, sixties baroque pop feel and a bubblegum friendly Marc Bolan vocal, summery breeze, keepin’ those lovin’ vibrations happenin’ with her, it has an early Floyd/Donovan/John’s Children feel. Very nice. Demonstrates how if the mood struck him, this dude can effortlessly churn out whimsical pop treats as sweet at the La’s, or Love & Rockets, or Oasis. I seem to remember it was an improbably hip record-store chick with larger than life Steve Stevens hair who first introduced me to the early Thee Hypnotics catalog, but another friend, from Switzerland, an early musical mentor of mine back when I still caterwauled for more than a few crash and burn, sucky glam bands, he always used to show me pictures of Thee Hypnotics and hold them up as a shining example of understated cool. He was always wanting me to get a detective haircut and a seersucker suit and drop the clown glam, but I was still excessively abusing the pink makeup and polka dots, Aqua Net and Crayola colored leathers and too many concho straps on top of my bangles and other concho straps. Of Course, he was right. I still like “Too Fast For Love”, though. Hoo ha. So, I’m makin’ my morning coffee and got the brokedown computer playing some random Ray Hanson stray tracks and I figure one thing that separates him by a million miles from the suckshit mediocrities who followed, in his shadows, huffin’ his smoke, is part inspiration and perspiration like he’ll tell ya, and of course talent and soul, but Brother Ray’s roots go back to time immemorial, WAY back, you know you hear kids today actually call Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden “Old School” nowadays, and of course, that always kinda makes me shudder…
I always feel like I’m still a kid myself, until I talk to one…yes, Virginia, you can trace the roots of righteous rocknroll way, way, way back baby, even past the Beastie Boys, farther back than fucking Beck. So RARE to hear any music now without that abrasive Kid Rock mark it, Ad Rock’s ubiquitous stinky stain territorial pissings. Personally, I never want to hear songs that make me think of white boys in tube socks, or frat houses, or gym memberships, but that’s just me, I’m old fashioned, take me back to the way back home.
Sonic Ray Hanson‘s blue based fractured soul and hallucinogenic rocknroll’s all sturdy oak, that was planted one hundred years ago as a delicate seedling in the Mississippi mud somewhere, probably by a sunburnt, heavy drinkin’ sharecropper who was thinking about the Bible and havin’ a bad day…you can’t hear Sonic Ray Hanson‘s songs without seeing rusty tractors in your head, or beautiful women in shimmery dresses with too much lipstick, or the crazy eyes of legitimately hell hounded old men, or fifties pop art signage on the frontwindows of Chuck Berry‘s Daddy’s St. Louis barber shop. “Babylonian Sonic Supreme” is what the mop topped head shakers and hot roddin’ rawk punks love to hear from Sonic Ray’s Hypnotic Whores Of Babylon-filthy riffage, deep grooves, and white hot leads, well that’s part of it. You can rummage through his otherworldly radio playlist online, if your speakers work properly, you can play tunes from his “Fire & Brimstone Sessions” while you do your morning chores for a sonic uplift, or enjoy it responsibly with the finest delicacy of your preference. “I Threw It All Away” into “Brotherhood, Prophets”, Disciples, & Warlords Of Resistance” is a lovely intro ditty that segues into another pulsing, spirit piercing, reckless drive through the bad part of town with the type of nasty riffage that is especially sure to please fans of say, Throbbing Purple, or Pillbox NYC. “Motorhorse Interstellar Plutoniac” is the kinda Blue Cheer mind melting I always wanted from Creem‘s Eric Clapton, but never totally received in a satisfactory way, ya know wot I mean? “Faster Than A Homesick Angel” is some real beautiful, Tom Waits meets “Exile on Main Street” heartsick testimony that is pretty much exactly everything you ever wanted to hear if you appreciate the kinda music I do. It’s just crazy soulful. Gospel punk. Stirring. Leaves you wanting a whole album’s worth. My favorite flavor, winesoaked blues. “Teenage Refugee” is a trashy riff that would be most other band’s best song, but for Sonic Ray, it’s just another silver blade in his boot he can whip out at will. “It’s Alright, It’s Alright” is all feeling, like something improvised by my sadly deceased, train riding, bar fighting, street musician friend from New Orleans. “Could You Ever Fall So Low” reaffirms how startling it is that the five big evil corporations who rule the planet allowed a talent this profound to go unmonetized. There is a real purity in all of Brother Ray’s spirit quests and psychedelic sojourns that you don’t hear in modern music anymore ’cause the gatekeeping guardians of the empire of illusions don’t want no universal truth seeping into the sleepy masses in their burger gobbling, football watching, Honky Death Spell, and arousing them from their consumerist life wasting. I told Ray one time that I really respect that he leads by example, while lots of folks find a soapbox and pontificate all day long, the good Pastor Ray just fucking dropped out of the rat race entirely to devote himself one hundred percent to introspection, soul searching, and creating magic, doing the work. He’s got a museum’s worth of anarchic rocknroll beauty and splendor to feats your bloodshot hearts on. “Righteous Sonic Guitar Army” is a taster, a tease, a trailer for a future all out album assault. I like how Ray ain’t worried about repeating old formats, or rehashing old formulas, he is an authentic artist who is always able to adjust and improvise to entertain the audience in front of him, so leaking so much thrillingly versatile music online, gives a new generation with a different way of listening to music, and a different attention span, access to appreciating his gut wrenching soulfulness and relentless innovations. “Gods Speed Demon Seed (Reap What U Sow)” is like some long lost, menacing artifact from the Rolling Stones golden hued Mick Taylor era- a fragile piece of tender beauty like “Sway” or “Moonlight Mile”. “Surely She’s Able” is a drifter’s lament, ya know it’s hard to keep a girl waitin’ on that front porch and lightin’ a candle in the window when you spend all your decades in dive bars with the kickers and the cowboy angels. “I’m On Your Trail” is as mean as a goddamn rattlesnake, lettin’ all the moneygrubbers, fakes, phonies, frauds, and copycats know he knows, ya know? Ray never made it Bon Jovi famous, he never made Nirvana money, but his old band made it big enough that lots of nothing to say imitators and plagiarists all wanna steal piece of his thing. Anybody paying attention might recognize the widespread “appropriation of another author’s language, thoughts or expressions”, and the shameless “representation of them as one’s own original work” that’s become so common in the internet age, but the glorious part about being a real dude, is you don’t have to sweat the chumps and shysters slavishly stealing your style or sound for long, ’cause you just keep moving along, making new stuff, and the people who count already recognize him anyway, Ray’s got the bottomless well. If you make careful study of anybody who creates at Ray’s level, you’ll see they wear their influences on their sleeve, but change it up, and shake it upside down, and add their own tears and stardust to it, and dance around it and throw some feathers in the air, and invoke their own unique invocations, and purge their childhood traumas, and vent the angst of their romantic dramas, say something new with it, or why bother? Lazy posers make bad art and waste the people’s time because we can just skip their middleman hackery and go back to the always more potent source. Ray goes back to the source every time he puts pen to paper or picks up his guitar, he’s intimating his own truth. Somebody should put his sounds back on vinyl and disc and eight track and cassette and film and coffee table art book and collector box-sets and pinball machines and collectible action figures. He is the One with the real guts and grace and courage and danger you’ve been lookin’ for. Check him out.