Shilpa Ray and Comrade Question play Rumba Cafe on Monday, November 6. Doors are at 8pm and tickets are $12.
Shilpa Ray’s latest album, Door Girl, is an unflinching examination of every day New York City through the eyes of a (struggling?) artist; in the land of dreams, the day-to-day struggles are real but worth it to be given the opportunity to share your art.
Ray’s a by-product of a gritty NYC punk rock scene birthed in the ’70s, revolutionary in it’s style and substance and an era that will forever be revered in the annals of rock history. The album opens with the short “New York Minutes Prayer” featuring jazzy piano playing and ’60s malt shop vocals – an East Coast cousin to songs from the La La Land soundtrack – which gives way to an approximation of early rock, by way of sugary ’60s pop, “Morning Terrors Nights of Dread” – not as calculated and prescriptive as early material by The Strokes but a callback to simpler times (and damn if I can’t think of the similarities to Billy Joel’s “Careless Talk” from 1983’s Innocent Man when I hear this song).
While watching real events unfolding in her (figurative) back yard on the nightly news, Ray’s become desensitized to the problems of police brutality – the type that’s captured on cell phone cameras by concerned citizens – because, at the end of the day, she’s got bills to pay. “You wanna know where my heart went? / My heart went straight to making the rent,” Ray pseudo-raps on “Revelations of a Stamp Monkey”, a song that owes as much to Blondie’s “Rapture” as it does Luscious Jackson’s In Search of Manny EP.
“Work work work / Die die die” is the mantra many New Yorkers live by and is the opening line of “Add Value Add Time” which also bares some resemblance to another Blondie song. The Caribbean Island feel of “The Tide is High” isn’t as prominent but the cool, breezy sway is there even if the lyrics aren’t all sunshine and puppies.
For all the talk of Ray’s punk rock leanings, it really isn’t on full display until the fifth song on Door Girl where Ray starts with a spoken word monologue to introduce the scene – “I want to tell you a story about a hot summer night, at a bar on the lower east side where the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. And the crowds were so thick, you could cut them with a night.” The song eventually blows up with screaming, unbridled fury, the type of which you could hear at CBGBs in the late ’80s/early ’90s.
If recent set lists from Ray’s overseas shows last month hold true to her run through the U.S., expect to hear most of Door Girl when Shilpa Ray plays at Rumba Cafe on Monday night. Depending on your view of things, it might be nice that you don’t have to hop on a subway after the show is over to get home.