As début albums go, this is a particularly surreal albeit intriguing one. RA! emerged from a group of boys residing in student digs in Southampton, whose enthusiasm for indie music found them creating a unique mix of predominantly upbeat musical pieces and harrowing lyrics. The notion for the album was forged by band member Sidney Kauffman while painting fences during a summer break and the rest, they say, is history. Their self-proclaimed ‘suicide pop’ was unveiled to the music scene in the form of a single entitled ‘I Wish I Wasn’t Anywhere’ late last year. The most endearing part of it is that all the PR work and producing was spearheaded by the band themselves alongside a select cabal of close companions.

‘Oh Unhappy Bella’ boasts thirteen tracks which are based on the notion of a boy who is entangled in a love affair with a girl who doesn’t exist. The title of the album is extracted from the George Orwell novel ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’, which relays the story of a young woman living an unfortunate life. From the outset there is audio sampling on some of the tracks which sets the mood for the story that is about to unfold.  ‘Sugar in my honey’s eyes’  is all sweet guitar riffs at the début, lulling you into a false sense of judgment, however once the undoubted melancholic vocals of the leading man and undeniably dark lyrics kick in it becomes clear that this is not what was first expected. The pace and intensity of the guitar heightens as the song plays out, flowing nicely with the confusing and twisted lyrics.

‘Lady Luck’ is the first single to be released from the album. Raw guitar, bass and drums combine to make a catchy little indie number, ignoring the warped lyrics of course. Certainly one that could be heard resounding from a car stereo in the near future. A cheeky little cover of The Ronettes’ classic ‘Be My Baby’ is thrown in to the mix halfway through the listings and although it can be said that no one can do the Ronettes quite like The Ronettes, RA! have reworked the track to suit their uneasy style just by slowing the tempo and introducing a few audio samples. It is actually an attractive listen! ‘Irrational Thoughts’ and ‘Suicide Pact’ are two further examples of how good musically the band are, if only you can get past the considerably blunt and gloom ridden lyrics.

What appeals here is the upbeat indie sound, if The Kooks did ‘suicide pop’, RA! is exactly what the result would be. The audio sampling is unique, if a bit creepy at times. Nonetheless, it contributes to the theme of the album and provides that extra ambience. Surprisingly it all works. A talented bunch, there is no doubt that RA! will easily build a solid fan base after the album release on 9th February.

Written by Julie Bell