[8 September 2006]
Los Abandoned is a Los Angeles band that plays fun, fast rock. They come up with chorus hooks that teach themselves to you like a natural instinct. I was singing along before the album had even reached the end of the first song.
The song was called “Stalk You”, and the chorus I was singing went like this:
I didn’t mean to stalk you!
Oh oh oh!
It goes on, “I didn’t mean to stalk you, baby…” and then there’s another line that ends in a word rhyming with ‘baby’ perhaps ‘maybe’. A few songs later, in “Heavy”, their frontwoman Lady P sings, “It’s real heavy, we’re goin’ real steady… we’re drivin’ in a Chevy, oh it’s real heavy, we’re goin’ real steady, a-oo-oo, oo-oo-oo”. In “Panic-oh!” love gives her heart palpitations.
Palpita el corazón muy rápido
Ya no respiro me das Panic-Oh.
In “Van Nuys”, she explains that, “Van Nuys. Es very nice. But it’s not. Paradise.” You get the picture. Simple and punchy and loaded with romantic crushes and sassy-bratty-cute. She sings in appealing Spanglish, which the guitarist Don Verde once referred to in an interview as, “The national language of LA.”
Don Verde, whose real name is David Green, and Lady P, whose real name is Pila Diaz, met while they were playing in two different bands, Pescadores Pescadores and Tijuana Bibles. Diaz left Pescadores Pescadores and joined Verde’s band only for it to fall apart a short while later. The pair of them ended up hanging out together, wondering what was going to happen to their music careers. In 2002 they put out a five-song EP called Demotape, having chosen the name Los Abandoned as a cheeky mockery of the self-pity they felt after being dumped by their old band.
Two of the songs from Demotape have survived to make it onto Mix Tape. One is “Stalk You” and the other is “Me Quieren En Chile”, a murmured Latin-calypso bounce that sprouts surprising guitars and jumps into high volume before thrashing to a halt. Demotape is out of stock now, but one of those lost songs evidently featured Diaz singing solo and accompanying herself on a ukulele. The ukulele reappears on “Mix Tape”, this time in a new song called “Office Xmas Party”. “Office Xmas Party” is an unabashed piece of mid-twentieth century nostalgia, with Diaz channelling a melodic Lesley Gore. It’s hummable, but it doesn’t have the modern-girl kick of “Stalk You”.
After Demotape they made themselves a quartet with the introduction of bassist Vira Lata and drummer Dulce. Two years later they brought out another five-track EP, this one called Self-Titled. Self-Titled is not out of stock, which is nice to know. It includes “Van Nuys” and the confident urgency of “Panic-oh”.
Los Abandoned have appeared with Garbage, Calexico, The Breeders, and, most recently, Polysics, but they’ve also played large gigs to Spanish-speaking audiences. Mexican radio picked up Self-Titled and gave the band some measure of popularity there. I hope radio stations around here do the same with Mix Tape because I’d like to have a song on high rotation that I actually don’t mind hearing twice a day, seven days a week, as well as every time I pass a shop door. I could handle quite a lot of “A La Mode”, and there’s no reason why their music shouldn’t hook into the same people who liked “Stupid Girl” and the banging female-fronted rock of The Clouds.
The only song that sounds out of place is the last one, “State of Affairs”, which wobbles towards sub-Smiths territory with lyrics that complain that the singer’s friend doesn’t understand her interest in politics. We’ve spent 10 songs listening to our hero go real steady in a Chevy and fall in love at Christmas parties and now is not the best or most convincing time for her to start telling us that no one comprehends her imponderable depths. Not unless she can flood the words with the baroquely lamenting tone of a Morrissey, and Pila Diaz’s voice doesn’t work like that. It grabs you by the shoulder and looks you in the eye and says, “Hey there.” It sets the tone for Mix Tape overall: direct and unpretentious, an effervescent buzz.