[28 April 2011]
Here Holy Spain is rooted in Dallas’s oft-neglected music scene, but its punk grunt, sonic savviness, and gut-level rock ’n roll nuances explode well beyond the death zone of John F. Kennedy. Although irreverent neighbors like Reverend Horton Heat and the Toadies call North Texas a home, the megalopolis remains aloof in the American pop music consciousness compared to its southern sister Austin, which seems to ooze with reporters chasing the next trendsetters.
Up-close and face first, Here Holy Spain is a consummate power trio whose heavy combative licks feel more like the 1990s than today’s era of Cee-Lo and Arcade Fire. As such, the tough vein it probes is akin to the stoner rock of Nebula and Fu Manchu, with screamo edges for added potency, and moody, atmospheric rhythmic roiling too, such as the slowdowns on “Names” from its latest album Division .
Still, the group avoid minefields that might stem from its style: it avoids warp speed and amphetamine angst; it refrains from stuttering metallic mosh pit hamminess; and it doesn’t fly the flag of ornery hell-raising with a Southern backbone. The band is more methodical, balanced, and tuneful, able to wield rhythmic curves and deafening sonic blasts in equally controlled measures, as “Waiting, Wearing Your Skin” evinces.
Sure, vocally, tinges of Smashing Pumpkins pervade. But there is no pompous lyrical pathos, or made-for-MTV video cliches. The vocals invoke, instead, a well-worn personal savagery, like blurred tattoos made from twentysomething ennui. Variety is not necessarily Here Holy Spain’s modus operandi: don’t expect a variety pack of songs that change clothes every second. Like AC/DC, the band is “steady as you go”, and that route is packed with a similar wallop that sticks in the gut, replete with incandescent guitars and tightly-torqued percussion.
“Don’t fucking touch me”, the group warns on the brain flushing opener “No Love”. With misanthropic mindedness, “I’m like a cancer now”, the band intone, opening a barrage that almost makes ears bleed. Similarly, when the group yells “I’m Sick Again” as if borrowing bits of Alkaline Trio’s black eyes, ennui, and riffage, it sews together the alienation and angst with acrid verve. Here Holy Spain’s honest din and frenzy is not about reinventing genres, it’s about revisiting the truths in stark terms. That’s its dismemberment plan.
“I’m feeling pain from the walls that we built. . . Now you’re fakin’ like you never cared”, the vocals growl on “Burn it Down”, a tale of a lover crawling back. Sure, the narrator seems to chew on live wires, but the slight power pop edges of the song–capped with hand claps—make the sentiment feel less like vitriol and venom; instead, imagine the chagrin of the Ramones towards wayward girls.
“Can’t Control”, with its slide-rule precise drum parts, teeth-on-edge firecracker choruses, and undulating spasms of guitars, pictures a “last call” in empty A.M. bars. Prospects of isolation and loneliness weigh heavy, like a Hemingway short story. Do not go with dread into that dark miserable night, the band suggests, unless you’re willing to go to war with your own self.
Those who are bored with skinny skronk-jazz, post-punk piety, phoned-in folk rock facsimiles, third rate Americana, and deafening thrash metal may desire the bent fury and blunt life assessments offered by this band. Tumbling from the largest state in the lower 48 states, and offering howls from the disheveled heartland, Here Holy Spain is single-minded in its wallops and waywardness, and in its abrasive and cunning catharsis.