[25 November 2013]
“If you see me lyin’ on the grass ... walk around” spit subterranean Seattleite scoundrels La Luz across the title track of début album It’s Alive. Consider yourselves warned. Now ask yourself the question, “Do ya feel lucky? Well do ya punk?” Thought not, now scram ya chicken!
Make no mistake Daddio there’s a potent, Coca-cola ‘n’ Raybans, drive-in movie, ‘Youngblood’ rush firin’ the hot rod cylinders of It’s Alive. Bad boys ‘n’ badder girls. This all-female quartet cut the same rumbling rockabilly n’ surf guitar calamity that put the hop in Jack Rabbit Slim’s restaurant in Pulp Fiction, that hit the lost highway with Frank Booth and his cronies in Blue Velvet and that shook up the delinquent drapes of the trash deluxe Crybaby. They’re the bubblegum bustin’, sullen swagger offspring of Link Wray, Duane Eddy and the Ventures. “This ain’t no guitar, it’s a Tommy gun!” You’d picture La Luz’s motley crew of ‘Cleveland’, ‘Li Pino’, ‘Blackwell’ and ‘Sandahl’ rolling with kids (y’know, hoodlums) with street names like ‘Sodapop’, ‘Toe-Joe Jackson’, ‘Ponyboy Curtis’ and ‘Rusty James’. The howlin’ Wolfman Jack himself may be their packmaster. Darn, when recently hauled in for questioning (albeit by a pop journo, not Johnny Five-Oh), La Luz even ‘fessed up about how they were fixing to get black satin gang jackets with their tags emblazoned above a bad ass panther. Just like those favoured by the notorious Pharaohs of American Graffiti. Put simply they are cool ... and the gang. If the haymakers don’t floor ya, the harmonies will.
Much of La Luz’s dizzy début races full throttle on adrenalin, amphetamines and – yes – a blitzkrieg bop of four-part harmonies. It also packs a tank full of reverb, echo, 12 bar blues and a swinging kick on the tremolo bar. “Sure As Spring” sets the pace with a whirling dervish of Wurlitzers, lava lamps, mini skirts, Austin Powers’ mojo and beehives a go-go (“Oh, beeeehive”). It’s what Adam West’s Batman would’ve cut a rug to back in ‘66. On a diagonal dancefloor obviously. The woozy push n’ pull of “All the Time” slips us a mickey for Marty McFly’s “Enchantment Under the Sea” ball at Hill Valley High ‘55 whilst the straycat n’ skiffle shuffle of “Morning High” licks Dick Dale groovilicious, baby. An album highlight, it’s a finger clickin’ dandy with barb wire guitar flicks and a rumpshakin’ twister of a bassline. Later, a pair of instrumentals – “Phantom Feelings” and “Sunstroke” – cut across like motorcyclists revving up to spin themselves around a travelling Circus’ Wall of Death. All lingering stares, matador ceremony and daredevil bravado. The titular “It’s Alive” itself is akin to tearing a stolen T-bird down the strip for a chickie run up on Dead Man’s Curve. Elsewhere “Pink Slime” (yes, “Pink Slime”, deal with it) romps a mindbending hustle on the Waltzers before the frantic sugarbuzz of “Big Bad Blood” evokes fallen angels getting matching tattoos. Though you may swiftly realise It’s Alive isn’t going to be a life-changing revelation it makes for charming company and an effervescently entertaining night on the tiles. If you meet it on your travels, you’ll likely be in a fun place.
It’s not all beach parties, coiffured quiffs and kitsch calamity though – OK it mostly is – but there’s a touch of moonlit noir too. The dreamy “What Good Am I?” waltzes a Mazzy Star-esque, sad serpentine beat around the local biker bar ... if safely behind chicken wire. “What good am I / If I can’t say what’s on my mind,” its eyelashes softly flutter behind a misty blanket of tequila and weed. “Call Me in the Day” is similarly floatsome and anaesthetised if a tad more sparkly. Echoes of the Zombies’ “Time of the Season” ripple through its drag n’ roll swaggering melody, parting fleetingly for a windswept organ solo and cool, “Ba Ba Ba Oooh Aaah” harmony. The album ends – as inevitably with youth gone wild – in teary tragedy. The nodding, hypnotised “You Can Never Know” is a ‘splatter platter’ grave groove yarn like Jody Reynold’s “Endless Sleep” or Mark Dinning’s “Teen Angel”. “Oh take me to the other side,” it pines, burning with desire for bad things under the killing moon. And the moral of the tale is, always listen to your mother and stay away from greasers!
It’s Alive may be rockabilly ‘Royale with Cheese’ but it’s still rollercoaster fun at times. Even if some of the melodies won’t haunt you beyond that final Thunderbird over the edge, whilst you’re ‘in the moment’ La Luz’s début is breezily giddy with enough cheap kicks n’ thrills to justify the ride. There’s certainly potential for this gang to make a happening for themselves and freak a few people out. Though not yet the full “Rebel Yell”, coolly a “Rebel Ba-Ba Ooh-Aah”.