LOS DRAGOS - Los Dragos (Nicotine)
Here's a twist - a band steeped in '60s punk that does something relatively new with it. These Italians cram an awful of of ideas into their 36 minutes of debut album fame but, damn, it's impressive.

I'm challenged to find much background on Los Dragos (their website is in Italian, naturally enough) so I approached this album with no pre-conceptions other than those thrown up by the film noir photography on the CD slick. Half a dozen listens later, there are a couple of key elements here - very good tunes and two guitarists with the balls to mix up metallic trills and dirty chunks of fuzz.

There might be a generous number of "Nuggets", "Pebbles" and "Teenage Shutdowns" in the Los Dragos record collections but the production values are dark and chunky rather than mere garage replication. Fuzz pedals do away with the need for a bass player in Los Dragos' case and there's ample bottom end in the mix, which sounds like a feedtime record, at times.

The usual suspects (Sonics, Count Five, Music Machine) provide obvious inspiration on cuts like "Don't Go", but there's precious little keyboard supplementation (more often than not a stock-in-trade for bands ploughing this field). Your average garage fan might shy away from the sometimes relentless guitar attack, because this is unabashedly hard stuff.

Briefly consider this soundscape: "Duffy" sounds like hardcore trashabilly (vocalist/guitarist Marz living up to the description of possessing "a guitar players' voice"), the alternately-tough-and-dreamy "Tiffany's In My Garage" is "Evol"-era Sonic Youth " while Astro...!? What?" treads on space rock territory. Diversity like that shouldn't work, but it does.

If you grew up on '60s punk and grew out of '80s band slavishly revisiting it, this could be for you. Alternatively, if you're fast recognising that the success of bands like Jet and the accompanying media hype have de-valued your accustomed place in rock's garage, Los Dragos might convince you to hang around. - The Barman



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