- by Steve Ricciutti Rating:6 Release Date:2016-10-14 Label: Fire Records
With an intriguing mix of noisy garage power and DIY dub-heavy dream pop, Argentina’s Las Kellies return with their fourth album Friends & Lovers. The band takes punk cred to heart, particularly the reckless abandonment of formula and damn the torpedoes desire to play whatever makes them happy, as made famous by female band paragons The Slits and The Raincoats. Like their heroines, Las Kellies pull off the tricky feat of following their own groove while making music with broad appeal. Like another legendary punk outfit, the ladies all take on the same surname (Kelly) as a show of solidarity to the cause.
Openers “Sugar Beat” and “Tied to a Chain,” both crammed full of reverb and echo, encompass much of the album’s feel. “Summer Breeze,” the first single, has hints of the Pixies-heavy side of The Breeders, and “Make It Real” reminds me of Hinds, but overflows the template to spread out into a sprawling groove. Lastly, “Celebrate Life” takes a fairly pedestrian chord progression and twists it up enough to make it original.
One notable issue I have is that the vocals are too difficult to hear. Mixed low and then distorted through heavy-handed echo effects, it makes each song sound like the vocals were an afterthought and it leaves an unbalanced feel. I get the murky garage concept, but the production might have considered dialing things down a bit.
Eschewing pop structure for the most part is generally a misfire for me, there’s some stuff that gets a bit repetitive to be sure, and there’s my hang-up on the vocal mix. Despite those concerns however, there’s something fresh enough about this band’s meandering vibe that finds a niche spot in my musical library.
Love this album. Not saying its a classic or particularly original but its great straight-ahead indie pop with a bit of growl. One of my faves this year. Love to see them live.