You’d hardly be blamed if you thought the name The Gays implied that it was the effort of a full band. So, you might be as surprised as I am to learn that, in fact, The Gays is the work of one Mr. Will Riley. As far as I know, Will performs and records everything himself. Of course, I don’t really have that much information to go on. His Facebook biography is simply “Gays fer dayyyyyyyz bud” while his list of musical influences is “plugging things in, beer, singing and abs.” But that’s okay, I prefer to go into a review knowing as little as possible about an artist, letting the music do the talking. And in the case of this record, titled merely B-Sides and Rarities, it speaks volumes.
So, let me get something out of the way immediately. Most B-side records suck. It’s often a collection of discarded material that just didn’t make the cut for one reason or another and sounds exactly like that. This record, however, is a complete exception.
The first track, “America Live in the Loft” immediately gives me a Pixies and The Breeders vibe. It’s incredibly catchy, and Will’s voice seems to draw inspiration from the likes of people like Davey Havok and Brian Molko. “Pretty boys (early mix w/ drum sample)” is, as the title gives away, an early version of a song called “Pretty Boys Make Me Feel Ugly,” which appears on The Gays record The Agenda. This version is obviously a little more minimalist, but it still has that same awesome riff layered with Will’s dynamic voice.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the track called “Track that got left on the drawing board for the agenda because the chorus sounds too much like Shania Twain’s still the one.” Yes, that is the actual name of the title and to be fair to Will, he’s right. The chorus totally sounds like still “The One” from Shania Twain. I’d still rather listen to this song than Shania Twain though.
In some cases, the fact that this is a b-sides record is a little more apparent. “Tenage Dartfag live 4 popmtl” (not a typo, that’s how the song is spelled on the record) is a cover of “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus with some, shall we say, minor adjustments to the lyrics. I loved the cover, but the recording here sounds like it was recorded off an iPhone, so it’s not exactly the easiest listening. The other live track “Lighthouse live at the boom room” sounds much clearer.
I struggle a bit to define the sound of The Gays. All I know is that the album feels very “real.” There’s something quite visceral about hearing tracks that were initially cast off as perhaps not being “good enough.” There’s also something super stripped down and emotional about a lot of these songs. Will is a fantastic songwriter. It’s catchy, heavy, weird and emotional, wrapped up into a ball of eleven strange tracks that just WORK.
Written by Dominic Abate
*edited by Danielle Kenedy