Wow! Alex Soria is back in a big way. The complaint with his former band, the Nils, was they didn't record enough. Those who heard the Nils' EPs raved about a Canadian answer to the Replacements' Paul Westerberg, but laziness and too much pot (and much nastier drugs, sadly) stalled the group and caused Alex to split from his even more indolent, addicted bandmate brother, Carlos. That sputtering loss is now our profound gain. Chino seem set to redo the Nils as a functioning, living, breathing, productive group, with (get this) four even better musicians backing a more sober Soria, and the six-song Mala Leche is smashing evidence that the should-have-been-a-star has lost nothing of his immense songwriting/vocal talents. Like the 'Mats, Soria straddles all the great rock & roll genres, with plenty of punk and post-punk appetite, but also plenty of fiery garage and, most of all, Mod stomp (The Nils used to cover the 1967 Who and the 1968 Small Faces covering Tim Hardin). Being an unknown outside of underground legend status in French Canada, it makes sense for Soria to stick to his old style, and Chino sounds thrilling from first play. Damn if "Worlds Apart" doesn't bring back the effortless, timeless melodies of "Daylight" and "Scratches and Needles," all guitar-power pop drama and scorched-earth hooks meeting a combustive band. Ditto "Nine Yards," with a pre-chorus most of us would sacrifice our pinkie to have written. Yow! And "Uno Mas" and "Misbehavin'" go for the jugular, within jagged, aggressive three-guitar riffing, Mike Willis' bass, and Pat Conan's walloping drums.
Chino is a blast, the welcome reemergence of one of the finest '80s rock & roll talents with a band his equal. (P.O. Box 115, Stn. R., Montreal, QC, H2S 3K6, Canada)