Naked Raygun LP: weak, uninspiring

By Greg Dunlap

There is no question that Naked Raygun’s new release “Raygun…Naked Raygun” is the band’s weakest record to date. The songs are generally weak, the production is to be laughed at and the musical performances are uninspiring and timid.


You see, there’s the thing that is hard to pin down about this record. When you hear a song like “The Grind” you can’t help but cringe. The forced “whoah hey whoah whoah” chorus is a far cry from the power and energy of older material like “New Dreams” or “Coldbringer.”

but, then there’s the anomalies. The first single “Home,” aside from its over-metallic guitar sound, is simply great, containing a catchy chorus and a driving rhythm. When Jeff Pezzati sings about his home being the loneliest place he knows, he sounds like he really MEANS what he’s saying and not just mouthing the words.

The same goes for “Strange Days” and “In My Head” on side two. Yes, there’s the traditional “whoah” chorus, but it flows naturally and freely without sounding forced and phoney.

From these three songs, it’s hard to imagine how songs like “Camarilla” or “Bad Jazz” (which is just that) got on the record. For the first time, Naked Raygun has written songs which can be described as “lifeless.”

Some of this lifelessness can be attributed to the record’s production. Previous efforts have born the studio stamp of Larry Sturm or the inimitable Iain Burgess. However, the production on “Raygun…” leaves much to be desired. Roger Auerbach has given all the songs a shiny slick feel, kind of like that plastic upholstery on really cheesy car seats.

Plastic is the best word to describe the record’s sound too. Auerbach seems to have taken Ragun’s trademark guitar and dropped into a black hole somewhere never to be seen again.

The other aspect of that problem is new guitarist Bill Stephens. After everybody’s favorite string blazer John Haggerty quit Naked Raygun last year, a great void was left where has guitar used to be. It will take another LP or so to see if Stephens is really up to the task of filling Haggerty’s shoes, but his showing here is not very impressive.

When it comes down to it though, Raygun still has it in the live arena. Their show last week at the Riviera Ballroom had all the fire and heat that has made them a Chicago area household word throughout the last eight years. Even the new songs were considerably livened by seeing Pezzati leaping about the stage and thrusting the microphone into the audience for chorus after chorus.

While songs like “Home” and “In My Head” show that Naked Raygun hasn’t lost all its shining brilliance yet, the band members will have to bring some better songs and a different producer to their next release.