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La Lechuza

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Album Review

In its earliest form, punk was meant to shock (the awe came later), as bands unleashed a roar of defiance against both the music establishment and society itself. Before 1977 was out, punk was officially dead, and post-punk clambered out of its grave. An amorphous genre, the groups within variously signposted the way to goth, hardcore, and Oi!, and even the new romantics. No longer content to shock, members of the new crew were more inclined to disorient their audiences with artsy experimentation, angular stop-start rhythms, tougher sounds, and moodier atmospheres. In Britain, it was an exceedingly unpleasant time, and the music reflected that to a T. Mustangs & Madras have deliberately (or not) captured the feel of that era and then fast-forwarded it to more current times. La Lechuza is a splendidly discomforting album, the tracks filled with jittery tension; the vocals awash in angst and anger, confusion, and chaos; the music shying away from melodies like a skittish horse. One hears many echoes of the past — the swagger of the Pop Group, the angular rhythms of the likes of early Gang of Four, the droning guitars of Siouxsie and the Banshees, the slash and burn tactics of the Contortions, and the dark pop of the Cure — while the shadows of myriad hardcore heroes are cast across the album as well. But the Mustangs, like the wild horses they've named themselves after, keep twisting and turning, and every time you think you've got a song pegged, they canter away in another direction entirely. Needless to say, the saxophone gives the group a unique advantage, taking the music and styles into territory few of the original post-punkers ever envisioned. "Now It's F*****g Saturday" is a great example — it sounds like a Cure hit you've never heard, all driving rhythm and infectiously moody melody, except with the sax taking lead. Suddenly the band shifts toward harder rock, and then flips into a more modern indie sound. "Packet" is even more surprising, all sharp angular rhythms and droning guitars, at least until the band veers into a long passage of solid drumming and guitar riffs. A simple keyboard drifts in, which suddenly flips into a jubilant Mexican melody, then slides sideways into something else entirely, as the piece slows down and seems to start coming apart at the seams. Now that's inspired. The album is filled with such unexpected twists, as the band scampers between genres, time signatures, and time itself, melding past to present with abandon. All so familiar, yet like nothing you've heard before, this is a wild ride into the unknown.

La Lechuza, Mustangs and Madras
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