Review by: Jonathan Moss
Dedicated to Charly Saenz
A CERTAIN SOMEONE was supposed to review this album for round 13 but he failed horribly and here I am, kicking ass.
This is a very strong album. The instrumentation throughout is clear and poppy, whilst having a punkish energy and a new waveish sense of fun. Even when the instruments fail to move past the conventions and stereotypes of pop rock they’re saved by a feeling of excitement. Kind of like a B-Movie. The groovy melodicity of the album is responsible for moving it past this as well, like a bonfire party! (one that doesn’t scare animals). Vocalist and main man behind the band, Luca Prodan, is a really good singer. You can tell he was influenced by the British punk explosion but vocally, at this point anyway, he sounds a lot more sophisticated, though still retaining a snarl. He’s multifaceted, he can sound romantic, witty, passionate, angry. Fairly conventional human emotions for sure, but that only ensures he’s genuine in expressing them. The lads got a lot of charisma, and adding this to the hookiness of the tunes makes it a joyfully fun listen.
The album is definitely rock music but within that paradigm it’s got enough varied songs and moods to stop it from becoming dull. It opens with a short, eerie synth piece, which is immediately and amusingly contrasted with the first song, the short pop-punker “El Ojo Blindado”. Melodically it sounds very similar to Blondie’s “One Way Or Another”. It has a tense, energetic chorus, like a person trying to grab a one million pound cheque out of an arcade grabber. It’s quite short as well, making it the perfect energetic punk opener, with a fab guitar solo. Not that the album stays in that groove, the subsequent song is a synth laden funky tune, with a dark yet quirky vibe. The vocals are almost spoken, the opening lyrics “She had my head on a plate/With her sweet and sour sauce/She was riding in her car/I was riding on my horse/Neck and neck along the road/Well, well I have nothing left to hide/So, what a heck/Firefly cars, women rushing past” are great. Luca’s enunciating of “what the heck” is amusing, like a mischievous kid. This is well contrasted with the epic romanticism of the chorus. The guitar playing is suitable, having a sort of jagged moodiness, reminiscent of the guitar playing on a Wall of Voodoo record. “TV Caliente” has funky scratchy guitars and a coy, sardonic feel. This is continued on the next song “Next Week”, but its a lot more raucous and hard rocking, like a sarcastic comedian got drunk and became more manic and mean.
“Cinco Magnificos” is the strangest song on the album. It has really creepy ominous synth playing, violin that reminds me of Laurie Anderson (her music, not Laurie herself), a spaced out echoey vibe, spy rock guitar, bouncy echoed drum machines and a druggy vocal performance. Some of the synths wouldn’t sound too out of place in a synthwave song. The violin playing gives it an intense driving momentum, and the keyboard playing evokes images of a dark road surrounded by desert and gas stations. After the unnerving vibe of this song there’s “Rollando”, which has a sweet reggae rhythm guitar track, swirling gypsy violin playing and sardonic, sexy vocals. It’s still a dark song, but it’s got a cool urban feel, unlike the rural gothic of Cinco. Like the protagonist of the song made it from the empty desert to the big city. You can even tell he came from the desert because of the harmonica in the song! Luca singing “ooh, survival time” is dark, but he does it in such a beautifully haunting way, as if he knows that the apocalypse will bring time for heroism and sexy girls. “Los Viejos Vinagres” follows, which has a wonderfully funky scratch guitar and melodic horn combination. It has the energy of a punk song. Luca’s singing is incredibly fun as well. Groovy pop-funk is what the album needs after the darkness, like a handjob after an autopsy.
“No Good” is a pleasant, lazy shuffle, with catchy reggae guitar, but it’s one of the lesser songs on the album, especially compared to what follows. “Heroina” is definitely my favourite song on the album. It doesn’t sound like anything else on the it, and in theory I should hate it, with it coming very close to arena rock. But it’s such a well constructed song, with great dark ironic lyrics. In the chorus Luca enthusiastically and bombastically shout-sings “HEROIN” over a mellow catchy guitar line and epic saxophone playing, its one of the funniest things I’ve encountered recently. Hell, it’s more punk than the punk song on the album. It’s like a dark Springsteen song, if Bruce wasn’t one of the least talented songwriters out there. The verses are great as well, being genuinely emotionally touching yet gauche and barroomy. Luca delivers a sneering mock-romantic performance and there’s silly female vocals to back it up. Maybe it would veer too close to parody if it wasn’t so catchy and genuinely rousing, making it strangely touching, especially knowing Luca did suffer from heroin addiction. And died at a tragically young age because of drink.
The album ends on a reprise of the synth piece at the beginning, but not before one last song, the decadent party viber “Que Me Pisen”. I wouldn’t call it a highlight but it has a cool live feel and an amusing performance from Luca.
Anyway, forget charlatans like Bono and Springsteen. Luca Prodan is where its at, the rightful heir to Joe Strummer.