Okay, let’s hit the history books first: Sergio Vega started out in the New York hardcore scene, playing in Absolution before moving on to playing bass for tortured post-hardcore wonderboys Quicksand. Quicksand broke up, so Vega went on his own under the moniker “Fully” and put out a solo album nobody heard (including me, sorry). He then reunited briefly with Walter Schreifels, Tom Capone, and Alan Cage for the abortive Quicksand Mk. II, which self-destructed after about another year (that’d be August of ‘99, for those keeping track).
So, where does that leave us with The Ray Martin Sessions? Well, you can pretty much forget the stuff above ever happened, for one thing. Anybody looking for Quicksand-like rock will go away disappointed—as with many a grown-up hardcore kid, Sergio seems to’ve finally gotten bored with loud, fast rock, and has instead embraced pop melodies straight out of The Beatles’ songbook. Sessions is only an EP, unfortunately, but Vega uses the limited time well, throwing out four gems of full-on psychedelic pop to bob your head to, with one bitter throwaway acoustic ditty (“So Over You”) wedged in-between.
Of the four good songs, “Off The Top” starts off plaintive, with Vega seemingly offering up his feelings—“This is what I have / And I don’t care if you laugh / I know it’s not a lot / But I swear it’s what I’ve got”—and then slams in with overdriven, chunky guitars and Rentals-ish keyboards, to beautiful effect. “Come Home Soon” is in the same vein, but sticks a little more to the rock side of things; the main theme of the song reminds me unfortunately of an stupid alternarock band I’d rather not name (for your sake, trust me), but it also swings mercifully near to noise-popsters Mystery Machine or Overwhelming Colorfast, complete with a feverish rave-up/fade-out at the end.
A bit of a departure from the rest, “Old School Beatdown” is a minimal little pop song that makes me think of Prince, if he’d grown up on the rough streets of NYC, or maybe of that brother of Neneh Cherry’s, if he didn’t suck. I like the cardboard box-sounding “rock” drums, in particular. And finally, for the EP’s closer, “Everybody Loves Love,” Vega returns to the sound of the previous tracks. “Everybody” starts out a slow, melancholy love ballad, but then cranks up the Marshalls and turns into an awesomely fuzzed-out Catherine-esque singalong. Here’s to hardcore kids growing up.