Deathray makes a fine local comeback

Dana Gumbiner, the lanky frontman for Deathray, put it best: “Didn’t this year just suck?” he asked the audience at Old Ironsides at one point during the group’s local comeback show last Saturday night. For Deathray (and for the rest of us), 2001 may not have been among the more stellar of years, but the band looks like it’s got itself back in fighting shape for 2002. Gumbiner, guitarist Greg Brown and bassist Victor Damiani were joined on drums by former Saturday’s Child and Cake bandmate Todd Roper, a natural replacement for the departed James Neil.

The band’s 50-minute set relied mostly on new songs, kicking off with four—“They’re Coming to Get You,” “White Sleeves,” “Making Sure It’s Canada” and the sublime “Making Do”—before launching into more familiar territory with “Baby Polygon.” And even that song, and the three others Deathray played from its debut album (“10:15,” “Only Lies” and “Now That I Am Blind”) were slowed down, stretched out or otherwise rendered dreamy. Most striking was an oldies-sounding 1/6/4/5 ballad titled something like “Please Be What I Need This Time Because I’ve Been Wrong Before,” which came off like John Lennon dropping to his knees on a vintage Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman ballad.

Tinfed, the somewhat local band that immediately preceded Deathray, has toured as an opening act for a diverse lot of star attractions: Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode, Alanis Morrissette and Buckcherry, to name four. Which should allude to some kind of chameleonic ability, but Tinfed’s made-for-MTV brand of techno-guitar rock wasn’t a good fit on this rather Anglophile bill; the band’s layered sturm-und-drang attack stood in sharp contrast when lodged between two bands with a more developed affection for songwriting in the British pop tradition. And, sorry, but singer-guitarist Rey Osburn’s “Yoo-hoo, Mr. Spike Jonze, I’m ready for my closeup” arched-eyebrow mugging before the microphone too often looked like he was working the camera for one of those fishbowl-lensed hard-rock videos from some generic Roadrunner or TVT Records band. Tinfed is very good at what it does, but this show wasn’t the optimal forum for it.

Opening was Golden Shoulders, a young Nevada City quintet led by 23-year-old Adam Kline. “Can you believe this?” exclaimed Jackpot’s Rusty Miller, who was standing in the crowd. “This guy’s amazing.” The crowd liked the diminutive Kline, too, although this writer found him a bit too sardonically twee—think Davy Jones of the Monkees on a more Bohemian coffeehouse bent. He had commanding stage presence, though, but the Shoulders got more out of tune as the set progressed, winding up somewhere between a Mexican jarocho band on peyote and the Shaggs upon discovering the music of Arnold Schoenberg. Still, you can’t really fault a group so early in what appears to be a promising career.Scene & heard was reported by .