All the way from Buenos Aires, the dreamy post-punk trio delivers another fine collection of fuzzy, melodic garage rock.
If Buenos Aires has a post-punk scene, I’m not aware of it. But any such scene likely features Cecilia and Silvina Kelly, the respective guitarist and drummer who collectively make up Las Kellies. Their latest album, Friends & Lovers, is a distortion-fueled psych-pop hallucination that, while not exactly overflowing with variety, maintains a steady stream of garage band fuzz (new member, bassist Manuela Ducatenzeile, doesn’t appear on the album, but will tour Europe with them this winter).
The band’s standard operating procedure rarely deviates: locked-down CBGB dance beats draped with thick, melodic guitar and angelic, echoed shoegaze vocal harmonies. The vocals, in fact, are so trapped in a cone of cavernous sustain that I can barely quote any lyrics. English may be their second language, but I can’t say for sure from listening to this album.
No matter. This is not music to be studied lyrically like a Bob Dylan box set or the latest Leonard Cohen album – the dream-pop, new wave atmosphere is really what counts here, and Las Kellies deliver it in spades. “I’m on Fire,” for instance, teeters between a tight punk riff and the loose, strumming chords of the chorus. “Can’t you see / I’m on fire,” they ask again and again.
While the overall sound of Friends & Lovers (produced by Ivan Diaz Mathe, whose credits include Lee “Scratch” Perry and Mad Professor) indicates a somewhat contemporary post-punk vibe, there’s also a lot of looking back. Songs like the lazy, mid-tempo “Sun Goes Down” successfully pay tribute to both the ‘80s psychedelic fuzz of Jesus and Mary Chain and the broken English girl group buzz of Shonen Knife. For a band with something of a singular sonic mission, Las Kellies seem to check off a lot of musical boxes. The simplicity on the surface is deceiving.
There are occasions when Friends & Lovers tiptoes out of the band’s comfort zone, like on “Sundays,” which employs major chords and an almost funky, brittle (yet characteristically lazy) backbeat. It’s a nice change of pace near the end of an album that you don’t really want to end anyway.
Even in their sunnier moments, Las Kellies remain a somewhat inscrutable trio. Their shimmering, gauzy grooves work well at loud volume when you just want to shut out the world. Because isn’t that just what you need in 2016?