In the grand rock ‘n’ roll tradition of the Ramones, the members of Las Kellies, a post-punk band from Argentina, have often shared the surname “Kelly”, though the members are not related. The band formed in 2005 and has released several albums, with founding members Cecilia Kelly (vocals/guitar/bass) and Silvina Costa, aka Silvina Kelly (vocals/drums/percussion) still forming the core of the band.
While the band borrows their naming concept from the Ramones, their new album, Suck This Tangerine, doesn’t sound anything at all like the gabba-gabba-hey guys. If you’re looking for a late ’70s/early ’80s band from which to draw comparisons to Las Kellies, the better choice would be a classic band from Athens, Georgia. That band would be Pylon. While Pylon never reached the commercial heights of fellow Athens-based bands like R.E.M. and the B-52’s, members of those groups revered Pylon for their singular sound, which combined angular, minimalistic guitar-based post-punk with undeniable dance rhythms, without being strictly dancing music. It was a very specific sound, and Pylon were masters.
Las Kellies are the 21st-century Pylon, but that’s not to suggest that the band are merely being derivative. Pylon might not even have been a guiding influence on Las Kellies. It simply means that, deliberately or not, the members of Las Kellies are channeling the sound of a great, underappreciated band, and bringing their vibrant personality to it. The result is the very fun Suck This Tangerine.
On Suck This Tangerine, Las Kellies stake out that sound immediately with opener “Closer”, drums and bass establishing a head-bopping rhythm along with some scratchy guitar noises that soon define themselves as slashing chords. Las Kellies can be just as lyrically spare as they are instrumentally. The entire lyric to this opening track is, “If you wanna get closer, come on.” And really, that’s all that needs to be said. The fun continues with “Funny Money”, another dance floor raver that throws some bits of social commentary into what lyrics it has: “Crummy money / Crazy taxes / Ugly duties / Moody faces.”
When a band adheres to a precise sound, it can be a challenge to make an album’s worth of songs that don’t begin to sound redundant. Pylon mostly avoided this pitfall, as Las Kellies do on Suck This Tangerine. The energy and investment of the band help immensely in this regard. Although it’s also true Las Kellies help themselves by modulating their approach from track to track, so that “Baby”, a moodier, less frantic track than many of the others, feels like a nice respite (sort of like Pylon’s “Crazy”, which was famously covered by R.E.M.).
But even when Las Kellies bounce back from slower tunes like “Baby”, a listener never gets a sense that the group is getting tired of the core style they’re working on Suck This Tangerine. Las Kellies save one of the album’s most compelling tunes, “Let You Go”, for the 10th out of 12 slots on the album. “Let You Go” is a breakup song (“It’s time to say goodbye / My love, you go your way tonight / I will go mine”) but it feels more celebratory than tragic, as all the musical elements are turned up a notch or two, even as the vocals remain cool and composed.
Las Kellies might not be for everyone: you have to be invested in a style to go for a band that’s so completely devoted to that style. But if you are the kind of person who needs to have taut blasts of rhythmic, post-punky rock ‘n’ roll in your life, you’re going to want to check out Suck This Tangerine.