Release Date: Sep 17, 2012
Record label: Innovative Leisure
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Garage Rock Revival
Close your eyes, roll your head back. Now look up at the California palms. Whether the coastline be Pacific or Persian Gulf, this debut by these Hanni El Khatib and Nick Waterhouse labelmates will strike a visceral cord with anyone who finds beauty in being blinded by the sun. Resurrecting ghosts of endless summers past, Allah-Las are modern surf and psych-rock at its best.
The Allah-Las may be new to the scene, but their self-titled debut travels backwards and takes notes from The Kinks, The Zombies, even Bob Dylan’s humbug drawl. The Los Angeles four-piece turned heads when they were placed on the line up for FYF Fest 2012. And following a groovy performance under the summer sun, the consensus was clear: this band has bottled California, with its romanticism, its gritty stone sidewalks kissed by yellow sunlight.
Allah-Las’ debut album, Allah-Las, was produced by Nick Waterhouse, who specializes in a swinging, horn driven take on 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. With his help, Allah-Las push the envelope a few years further in history, with guitar leads that channel a mid-‘60s rock sound, the kind of the thing you might find on an early record by the Seeds (and closer “Long Journey” could be seen as a distant cousin to “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine”). The songs build easily, with the guitar running through everything a few times before the rest of the band joins in.
L.A. garage psych revivalists Allah-Las met and formed when three of the four bandmembers were working at Amoeba Records. No doubt they bonded over repeated airings of Pebbles collections and arguments over who was moodier, Love or the Chocolate Watchband, because the sound they conjure up on their self-titled debut album sounds like it came straight out of a Midwestern garage or from the stage of a West Coast teen club.
Garage rock, even at its rowdiest, is inherently lonely music. It exists outside of time, allergic to trends and suspicious of new technologies, which makes it ideal for loners who feel alienated from culture. Garage rock also sounds solitary. If it is recorded correctly-- which is to say, if it feels like the audio was captured haphazardly by an amateur engineer in 1966-- this music will be alive and sloppy but also a little removed, particularly the vocals.
If their self-titled debut album is anything to go by, LA four-piece the Allah-Las are laid-back dudes. Three of them met while working in the famous record store Amoeba, and their consistent groove suggests they spend their days surfing, skating and chilling out in sun-kissed California. We’re firmly in retro territory here. ‘Allah-Las’ is all post-Rolling Stones and Byrds West Coast garage-psych that could’ve been informed by early Love and The Electric Prunes.
Amoeba Music is a celebrated record shop in Los Angeles, stuffed with old vinyl and the kind of people for whom the psychedelic pop era of the 60s represents the very apex of western civilisation. Three of them (and a friend) have formed Allah-Las, a loving homage to the Byrds, the Rolling Stones, Love and those 7in singles too obscure to fit on the landmark Nuggets box set, the holy grail of garage rock. Girl trouble is foremost among their concerns on period-perfect gems such as Tell Me (What's on Your Mind).
The debut album from LA four-piece Allah-Las has been hailed in some quarters as the year's best piece of guitar-pop classicism, a long overdue return to the values of 1965 in an age where tone and texture are valued above melody and songwriting. In truth, the reaction probably says more about the shortage of young guitar-pop classicists than it does about the Allah-Las themselves, because this sounds a lot like a middling Creation Records album from the mid-80s – all jangling guitars, reverb-heavy production and vocals that veer from Jagger sneer to listless moping. Vis-A-Vis might even have those who remember Creation's middling releases trying to contact Alan McGee to let him know he can stop looking for the next Razorcuts.
This year's Mercury Prize list featured an unprecedented glut of acts who all eschew forward thinking in favour of the defiantly retrograde. Looking back over their shoulder - while standing with their feet glued firmly to the lino floor - hankering after a golden age certainly comes with its pitfalls and for the contrived and disingenuous, the cracks begin to show: you can generally sniff out an imposter. LA four-piece Allah-Las brazenly scuff the skirting boards of 60s West Coast psychedelia and put two fingers up to progress as they saunter down the well-trodden path of the canon which they seek to ape.