May 2001 – single & track reviews – Six Ray Sun’s ‘Bad Batz Maru’; Clearlake’s ‘Let Go’

28 May

Six Ray Sun: 'Bad Batz Maru'

Six Ray Sun: ‘Bad Batz Maru’

Perhaps I should have expected this from a Hong Kong/Home Counties hybrid band with a single named after a killer penguin. Six Ray Sun‘s debut has swagger, and it has style, and it has studio suss. And a big helping of disastrous silliness. Funnily enough, not because of the penguin connection. You know when you’ve built something really impressive, then you add a last finishing touch which undoes all your previous hard work?…

Everything seems to be going OK for Six Ray Sun for the first twenty seconds of Bad Batz Maru. They’ve got a commanding industrial-rock thing going, with some wall-of-distortion guitars chopped smartly into tidy beams, and a meaty bass (purring like the Sphinx’s cat). They’ve got sophistication via the electric piano that appears to have strayed in from a Goth version of I Heard It Through the Grapevine. They’ve got full-scale arena-rock production which could regally roll this into pop playlists like a Challenger tank muscling in on ‘Robot Wars’. For those twenty seconds, wearing black and pretending to have diodes for guts seems like a good idea again.

And then – like the irritating runt who attaches himself noisily to all halfway-credible gangs – Andrew Gannon starts singing, and it turns into cardboard. There ain’t a British singer under fifty who can sing two-liners like “drinking whisky by the pool / now you think you’re looking cool” or “the little one is on her knees / does her best to try and please” without becoming a joke. And Gannon, with his smartened-up Gallagher sneer, is no exception. He makes a late bid for the Suede camp by changing tack and blathering about “robot grace” and about how “you chose the way the Valium lies.” Ever seen a man trying to jump two trains simultaneously, missing both, and hitting the track? On Elecdrum = Elecdrum, he’s fished more well-worn claims out of Depeche Mode’s dustbin (“I’m waiting for my man to take me to the dark side, / I am your meat, I am your dirt”) while the rest of Six Ray Sun make some heroic efforts to at least get things rocking on an instrumental level – tubular bells (hooray!), Goth-dance keyboards piping, and some more of those stainless-steel riffs. But every time Gannon opens his mouth, all the effort’s swallowed up. If Six Ray Sun had chucked a few bats around or called themselves The Vlad Rammberg Four, just played it for laughs, they could have rolled with this. Sadly, they’re just too good to survive the flaws.

Look, here’s something. Buy yourself the biggest, sleekest, most fetchingly nostalgic hot-rod car your pocket will afford . Then polish it up to a glistening finish, and fine-tune it until it works like a roaring dream. Then buy the biggest brown plastic nodding-dog ornament you can find – something the size of a large child – and jam it on top of the radiator as clumsily as possible. Finally, drive it around a bored suburb at a leisurely twenty-five miles an hour during high afternoon. Observe those reactions chasing each other across people’s faces as you do so: the surprise, respect, excitement, disappointment and ridicule. The same reactions apply to this single. Nice bodywork, but… hmm.

Clearlake: 'Let Go'

Clearlake: ‘Let Go’

It seems that Clearlake spent most of last year sitting around in Hove and, rather than dreaming of America, building a little English town in their heads. Although said town wasn’t quite one of the rural paradises we still try to flog to the tourists. It still had the quaintness and the afternoon teas, but had its share of shabbiness, bad weather, bewildered run-aground eccentrics and almost cosy dead-end lives as well: the usual bits and bobs hidden behind Tudor beams and village greens in most little Englands. They named it after the band. Most of their snapshots of it bobbed up on the ‘Lido’ album this spring. The fact that it didn’t exist added more to its charm – Nowheresville, Alias-shire. The kind of place we’re proud of, secretly. Resisting quick, effective change but still ready to do its own thing in its own lopsided way. The way we like to feel that our music does.

But on Let Go, the youth is restless. Somewhere in Clearlake, someone’s old barn is creaking at the walls as the lads get together and turn up the amps. Equal parts Bo Diddley, Beach Boys, Cardiacs, Britpop Blur and Pixies, this chops along as a matter of urgency. And it wobbles as it goes. Sam Hewitt’s devices whoosh and lurch on top of the dogged riffs, and the sunny psychedelic harmonies droop at the end of each line like clouds passing over the sun, or someone falling gently off a wall – a loopy English pop shamble to share with Blue Apple Boy. And I don’t know whether Jason Pegg’s thinking about small-town drug habits, small town love habits, or just that tricky small- town habit. But whatever he’s saying in his round, friendly Estuarine chirp deals with the difficulty of relinquishing anything dear to you. “It could be easy, it could if you just let go. / That’s what they tell me, but sometimes I just don’t know… / What if it’s painful? What if it all goes wrong? / What if I die here? What if I can’t go on?” And meanwhile that insistent little beat is pushing him along, inch by rapid inch.

For a chorus, you’ve got a classic little cut of staid English sulking – “They make it sound so easy when it’s put like that – / I’d like to see them try to just let go!” But Jason’s betrayed by his own tune, which jigs up and down at the bus stop like it can’t wait to zoom off over the hills and far away. Clearlake are ready to jaunt in earnest. If they can conjure up little worlds as well as they have done already, what’ll they do with a big world?

Six Ray Sun: ‘Bad Batz Maru’
Shifty Disco, DISCO 0105 (no barcode)
CD-only single
28th May 2001
Get it from: (2020 update) Only 1,000 copies issued – best obtained second-hand.
Six Ray Sun online:
Last FM Amazon Music

Clearlake:’Let Go’
Domino Recording Co. Ltd./Dusty Company, MOTE 104 CD (no barcode)
CD-only single
28th May 2001
Get it from: (2020 update) Best obtained second-hand.
Clearlake online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace <Last FM Apple Music YouTube Deezer Google Play Pandora Spotify Instagram Amazon Music

One Response to “May 2001 – single & track reviews – Six Ray Sun’s ‘Bad Batz Maru’; Clearlake’s ‘Let Go’”

  1. Dann Chinn June 27, 2020 at 10:06 pm #

    I originally reviewed both of these singles under my (generally) breezier Jimby Walton persona. ‘Let Go’ can be found on Clearlake’s second album ‘Lido’. I’ve no idea whether Six Ray Sun ever did anything else (although several other bands have used the same name since) but Bad Batz Maru can be found on Shifty Disco’s box set ‘0-60 In Five Years – The Complete Shifty Disco Singles Club Collection’.

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