IN THE AGE OF STUPIDITY - Los Chicos (Dirty Water)
It's obvious that you're in the presence of greatness at a gig when a singer coaxes the entire crowd to limbo down lower than he. So it goes with Los Chicos, a mobile garage rock party ruled by a mixture of red wine and Coca Cola who've swung through Australia on a couple of occasions. Of course, gig greatness often does not translate to shiny silver CD or black platter. "In The Age Of Stupidity" is an exception to that rule.
"In The Age…" is a party. Nothing less. The song "War Or Party" proves it. It's a two-minute blast of twang and limber vocal cajoling that clatters along like there's no tomorrow. There probably isn't but who cares when you're summoning up meaningful employment ("Willie and The Hand job") or an ode lambasting vacuousness (the garage-country honk pearl, "Age of Stupidity".)
Do we carry on with hyperbole. much? Only with stuff that deserves it. Los Chicos is a five-headed hurricane of good-time garage rock. That much is true. A tightly-wound engine room and a twin-brother guitar attack. Los Chicos have that "stutter" thing going that so many bands like them aspire to but couldn't achieve despite years of trying. These guys appear not to even have to try. Los Chicos say it themselves. This is a band that Sounds Amazing And Looks Like Shit.
And the vocals? Rafa is no choirboy - but nor does he need to be. There's a bit of gravel in the voice box and a style in the delivery that tells you he doesn't take himself too seriously. Songs like "Motor Ford" and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, One Wine" tell you a lot about his interests outside rock and roll. That is, rock and roll while drinking.
A dozen songs and the whole thang clocks in at a public hair's breadth less than half an hour. Which just gives you a reason to play it again, Senor. You say Spain's gone off the boil for rock 'n' roll? Not while these guys are kicking. - The Barman
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10 YEARS OF SHAKIN' FAT AND LAUNCHIN' SHIT - Los Chicos (Off The Hip)
Just coming off a scorching Los Chicos’ set on a cruise in Sydney Harbour and looking like a man who had just met God, I hit the concession desk and picked up a copy of this disc. I showed it to the Barman and asked him if he’d reviewed it yet. He had but suggested I did too. So this means a bit of an experiment in reviewing. Without reading the Barman’s review, how different will our opinions be?
Firstly, given the undeniable fact that Los Chicos are one of the best live acts in the world, why only four bottles? After seeing them live (and you should make that a priority before you die), you’d want an album that you could take home and play around the house that sounded just like that. This is a compilation representing ten years of recordings. It contains most of the songs you would hear in the live set. It should be a greatest hits album but there’s nothing here that quite catches that live fire in the bottle. I’m not saying it’s not good. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy it. You should. I would have just liked to have heard their live anarchy committed to disc.
What do they sound like? The closest thing I can think of is some kind of latter day Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs pummelling out Wooly Bully after a bottle of tequila and a huge line of speed. This music isn’t rocket science. It’s rock and roll spiced with Tex-Mex flavour to the full with a dash of the Pogues and the Hives for good luck. They have no illusions, these boys from Madrid. They want to make you party. They want to make you happy and they succeed. Admirably. As every motor city motherfucker worth his salt will tell you, the three base chords of rock and roll are seldom enhanced by orchestral arrangements and bridges made of minor chord progressions. Rock and roll is there to make you testify.
Los Chicos make you want to testify. On two separate occasions I watched them convince an entire room to squat down in the verses and jump in the air of the verses of the old standard “Treat her right”. Most bands have trouble convincing punters to come to the front of the stage these days but there were some fairly worn and ancient knees genuflecting at those gigs. There were smiles all around too (including on many faces I have often accused of being way too cool for school). No complaints either, despite the creaking bones.
This album (unfortunately) will not give you that experience. You won’t see the band strip the drum kit down to its individual pieces and march out of the room at the end of their set either - but that is the true hidden nature of the band. When you listen to the Pogues’ first album you can hear Shane MacGowan hitting himself across the head with a tambourine. You suspect the band of being insane. These recordings need that kind of added wildness; the clink of glasses and the crash of broken windows. They need to have the leash taken off. They need a producer who’ll step in and tell them to stop trying to get it perfect and who isn’t afraid to turn the guitars up in the mix.
“We Sound Amazing But We Look Like Shit”, could be the breakout single with a decent remix. “Los Chico’s Party Boogie” comes close to the level of live performance but the vocals are too forward and the backing too thin. “Equation of Love” has the kind of mix the previous songs should have had but it isn’t nearly as strong a song. I don’t want this to come off as if I’m slagging the band. The thing is, I have seen how good this band is and I want you to see it too. All I can do is show you this disc and tell you I like it but you should have heard the one that got away.
Let me put that in perspective. This is as good an album as say Question Mark and the Mysterians’ “Action” (don’t bother looking; it’s the one without “96 Tears”). I do love it; I must stress that. It has good solid songs. It’s great rock and roll. High Energy; a disc you should have in your collection. It’s the only thing that has been on my stereo for the last three days. But... fuck. I wish they had a live album out. - Bob Short
It should amaze no-one that Spain's the new world capital of rock and roll. Go there and you'll find half the country addicted to not going out until 11pm and then partying till dawn. God knows when they do any work. The bars are plentiful and everybody has a good time.
Spain's rise in the music stakes parallels Australia's demise - a result of over-regulation and law-makers' all-consuming drive to turn the place into a mollycoddled nanny state if you ask me. But enough about us - this review is about Los Chicos and in a country of hedonists, they might just be the last party band left standing.
You might have heard bits and pieces of Los Chicos ("the boys") down the years - they've had a string of releases on a slew of labels over the last decade - so a compilation pulling the threads together is overdue. Off The Hip's delivered, just in time for an Australian tour.
The music of Los Chicos is like a bowl of paella, only less watery - you can pick your way through it and find all sorts of good things. Garage, soul and a touch of country twang. Sax punches its way through. The Fleshtones are a far too obvious comparison although the same good-time ethos is there. Los Chicos sound more like the Flamin' Sideburns crossed with the Swinging Neckbreakers. Black Sabbath, they are not; this is strictly garage fare
Vocalist Rafa's an engaging singer who's this side of a blues shouter, and twin brothers Gerardo and Antonio cut it up on guitars, but Los Chicos would be much less a band without the rhythm section of drummer Pina and bassist Manu, who alternatively drive the songs like there's no tomorrow or mercilessly swing like a bunch of wife swappers on a camping weekend with a jar full of ecstasy.
Sixteen songs on this and every one of them has something to recommend. The raucous "Muddy Muddy" was Los Chicos' contribution to the "International Stomp-o-Lation" garage compilation of a few years ago and still kicks major arse, while the cover of Roy Head's "Treat Her Right" sounds like it's one of their own songs. No mean feat with such a well-known song.
"Los Chicos Party Boogie" is aptly titled with sax accents completing the job. "Tomorrow's Another Day" and the breakneck "Western Spray" show off a country-punk side. "Sheep Attack" is a song they should take to New Zealand (sorry Kiwis, but you did give us Russell Crowe) and "We Sound Amazing But We Look Like Shit" is clearly the mark of a band that doesn't take itself seriously.
A seriously great record. Party on, vatos. - The Barman
Read Johnny Casino's interview with Los Chicos here.
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