Review by: Michael Strait
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Track 1: Assured, powerful bassline. Great riff comes in over the top. Pretty good drumming. Vocals give the impression the lyricist has something to say – pity I can’t understand him. Vocalist is, in fact, a very characterful-sounding bloke, with lots of passion and a machismo that doesn’t sound insecure or forced. This is a well-written song that flows smoothly and naturally. Crowd seems into it, too. Little popping rhythm guitar helps the groove. Avoids sounding plaintive or overly epic.
Track 2: Laid-back and refined track. Stabbing guitars as vocalist sings his way into a million women’s panties. Keyboards present here, not doing much but fleshing out the sound a little – and occasionally sounding a tad dated, but not too much. This song sounds like an expensive glassy apartment overlooking a sunset-lit sea in a warm but not too tropical zone.
Track 3: Pretty good lead guitar is in control of its ego enough to let some soft, understated keyboards resolve its riff. This song says it’s gonna last 6 minutes – I’ve no real problem with that. Actual pianos are involved this time. I like the way the guitar and bass in this part keep missing each other – one of them plays, then the other one plays, in succession rather than together, until eventually they find each other and fall into sync. This band know the proper things about songwriting, they do – the little extra touches that make the songs hold up under scrutiny. Descending piano riff occupies most of the outro as the guitarist plays a tasteful solo. I like this album.
Track 4: The biggest riff so far. Turns into speedin’ rocker with playful lead guitars and the lead singer sings something about spaghetti. The piano here is a major part of the rhythm, alongside the slyly aggressive guitar. Piano gets to embark on a pretty pedestrian solo in the second half of the track. The vocalist continues to display excellent character, being an unpredictable soul who will drop all melody and just shout at exactly the right times.
Track 5: This one sounds a bit more reflective, though not regretful. Very quiet guitar solo comes at an unexpected time in the first third of the track – see what I mean? This song is thinking back quietly on pleasant times. Tiny little chiming piano provides the lead riff here – very basic, but cute. Guitar takes over in the pre-chorus for a few little flourishes.
Track 6: Guitar, bass and piano begin a riff – only bass and piano finish it. This guitarist sticks admirably true to the punk philosophy of minimalism. Can clearly play, though. Are those some slide guitars I hear here? Possibly. The vocalist goes into his higher ranges for the chorus here. There’s a lovely swaying bass riff in the prechorus, with guitars that pop in such a way as to make me wonder if Foals listened to this band a lot when they were young – wouldn’t that be an unexpected area of influence? What does “li lo li lo li lo li” etc. mean anyway – when I was young I used to listen to Gypsy Kings and they had a song that went just like that. Oh hey – a harmonica! A lil bit of ol’ school rock n roll to close out the track.
Track 7: Here’s a question: if this new wave band could so consistently come up with good riffs, what gives all those bullshit modern pop-metal bands the idea that they can get away without ‘em? Ah, never mind. I’m sorta running out of things to say here, anyway – the songs are uniformly well-written, well-played and effortlessly cool, sounding like they’d breeze past you on the street and steal yo girl without a glance, like a passing planetary body might steal a few of your smaller natural satellites. Admittedly, though, the bridge in this song has some dated-sounding drums – they’re not even machines, either, which makes me wonder how they treated them back then.
Track 8: Ah, this one is very much a rhythmic groove piece. The keyboard stabs in the verses kinda sound reggaeish, but unlike most cases of a rock band pillaging reggae for cultural cred it doesn’t suck or obnoxiously jut out. Shit, dawg, I don’t even HAVE a girlfriend and I’m pretty sure this guy’s still fucked her. A bit of synthesised horn here – just the briefest flourish, but it does a lot more than you’d expect based on its limited time. This band knew how to get the most out of the least, which is possibly the ability I respect most in a pop songwriter. The drummer’s playing some pretty good fills here, too.
Track 9: Aight, this one ain’t bad, but it kinda sounds like them on autopilot. I do quite like the reverby guitar sweeps here though, and the drummer’s subtly putting on what might be his best performance yet. Still, ain’t much to say about it at all. I’ll take this opportunity to point out something I like about this band – every time there’s an instrumental break, they get quieter. Most bands get louder, thanks to obnoxious soloing and other shit, but not these guys.
Track 10: The second song in a row with “Negra” in the title. Should I be suspicious, boyos? More reggaeish piano rhythm stuff. This one’s a slower tempo than the last one of those, though. The synth voice hasn’t aged well, but everything else has. I wonder if the same can be said of the lead singer – has he kept his voice or lost it with age? I can feel his stage presence coming through my speakers and I can’t even see him. I haven’t devoted enough attention to the fact that this is a live album yet – being at this gig (or these gigs? May have been multiple stitched together) must have felt like a privilege. The guitar is making sounds like a thing falling out of the sky, and it’s cool. This song is nearly 8 minutes, and we’ll see if it justifies its length. Ah, he’s playing with the crowd – the best reason one could have for becoming a rockstar is to do stuff like that. Dude does like to roll those Rs, doesn’t he? And that guitar solo sure does know exactly which spaces in the song need filling. Oh, there are two – yes, I suppose I should have mentioned that there are two guitarists in this band, and it sounds like they’re duelling here in a rare and earned moment of indulgence. It’s how the song closes. I ain’t got no problem with that.
Track 11: Final song! If that track from before was reflective, this one is speculative – in that expensive house from the other track from before I mentioned earlier, but as the sun rises rather than sets. Other than that, though, there isn’t much happening in this track – but I guess there doesn’t really need to be. It’s as nice a closer as any, though a bit of a weird way to end a live show – surely you want to drive the crowd crazy with some banger in such a situation? Ah well, never mind. Crowd cheers as the venue’s outro music comes in and that’s the end of it. Wish I had the time to put this into proper review format, but too much uni work – this’ll have to do.
Rating: I liked it.