Release Date: Aug 7, 2015
Record label: Hardly Art
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
We’re 50 years past the time when surf rock first made the scene, and there are still plenty of young bands mining that chirpy, reverb-heavy sound for inspiration. And many of these new outfits aren’t trying to rewrite the formula either. For good or for ill, they stick to the template. Can’t say we should blame them for this, considering how much fun groups like Guantanamo Baywatch, Shannon & The Clams, and the all-female quartet from Seattle known as La Luz sound like they’re having.
La Luz's latest, Weirdo Shrine, is a dark spin on classic surf rock, made even more haunting by the beautiful, ghostly vocals of frontwoman Shana Cleveland. It also benefits from the production and engineering of everyone's favourite rock and roller, Ty Segall. With the help of the SF wunderkind, La Luz manage to capture the energy of their amazing live show, and drench it in dark poetry and fuzz.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. There is a haunting beauty about each track on Weirdo Shrine, the sophomore effort from the Seattle-based band La Luz. This darkness is honestly not much of a surprise as the band nearly did not get the opportunity to record this LP thanks to a near-death experience while supporting their debut, It's Alive.
La LuzWeirdo Shrine(Hardly Art)Rating: 4 out of 5 stars The indie rocker’s all female, Seattle based, dark, dreamy surf/garage quartet of choice returns for another dose of the unique sound they introduced on their short but impressive 2013 debut. Two years, one near fatal car accident and a new bass player later they return, with Ty Segall behind the boards, to churn out another slab of the same, but arguably better. This shadowy sound, drenched in reverb and often sounding like the Raveonettes fronted by Lana Del Ray looks back over its shoulder to the 60s girl groups and surf bands that inspired them while keeping a grasp on contemporary, stripped down production.
The hiss all over La Luz’s sophomore album, Weirdo Shrine, conjures up images of shimmering sidewalks on a hot day or the hum of power lines. The sound coats the record like aluminum foil on living room windows. It’s easy to miss, only discernable at the end of tracks when the instruments fade away. But it’s an essential part of the record, lending an extra haze to the band’s already humid aesthetic.
In Charles Burns' graphic novel Black Hole, the teenagers of 1970s Seattle are spreading a bizarre sexually transmitted disease with varying symptoms. One might grow a tail or shed their skin, or sprout a tiny mouth below the collarbone that whispers secrets while you sleep. Some kids become extremely deformed, while others manage to hide their disfigurement beneath bandages and clothes.
La Luz are clearly not afraid to mix things up, taking the reverb-soaked guitars of vintage surf rock, the harmonies of '60s girl group pop, and the simple, revved-up melodies of first-generation garage rock and twisting them together into a sound that miraculously stays true to its influences without sounding like the musicians are struggling to live in the past. La Luz aren't trading in irony or misplaced nostalgia on their second long-player, 2015's Weirdo Shrine -- they've simply appropriated bits and pieces of rock & roll's past the way a kid might build a hot rod out of scattered parts found at a junkyard, and like that hot rod the band has created something that runs like a top and has a personality and swagger all its own regardless of how it was put together. While producer and engineer Ty Segall might have been expected to add some of his own speaker-blowing psychedelia to La Luz's formula on Weirdo Shrine, he's clearly put his own ego on the back burner at the service of the band's own approach, and he's given Weirdo Shrine a sound that's tight and uncluttered but also captures the energy and space of a live performance.
With all the technological advancements in music production over the last decade, a person sitting on a couch eating a bag of Cheetos in one hand can simultaneously compose a radio smash with their other hand on their cell phone. However, no one has invented a way to infuse the full ambience of a live show into a record. Aside from 14-year-olds seeking praise from anonymous online strangers because they listen to bands like Talking Heads instead of Train, the most rehashed YouTube comment is of the 'yeah but they suck live' variety.
While there has never been a shortage of groups mining rock-and-roll’s past for inspiration to the point of straight reenactment, the last several decades have seen these types of groups proliferate in seemingly absurd numbers. Before, groups looking to repurpose elements of early rock, surf and doo-wop were largely confined to an underground subset or the ghetto of garage rock revival. Following the 2001 explosion of “The” bands bringing these sounds up from the underground and squarely into the public consciousness, it became hard not to hear these elements.
Everything that was once considered cool or cutting edge almost always comes back around again. It happened with leg warmers, it happened with acid-wash jeans, and now La Luz is helping to bring back early ’60s surf rock. It’s odd to think that a group based out of Seattle—Puget Sound is not a place particularly renowned for its tasty waves—would be the ones to update that particular sound for a 21st-century audience, but here we are.
Yeah! I love this all-female Seattle quartet’s debut from 2013 (It’s Alive) and was absolutely psyched to hear that they had a new record coming out. Not only that, but how the band was continuing at all following a nasty van accident while on tour in November 2013 (thankfully the band members, while having some injuries, were okay). I’m happy to say that Weirdo Shrine is everything that the debut was and more.
La Luz — Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art) / Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles — Oh Man, Cover the Ground (Suicide Squeeze)“Guitar Hero”, the climax of Richard Thompson’s latest album, is a hella corny romp, ridiculous fun from a guy who typically offers up the dour. Mimicking the styles of the players that lead him on his path, the likes of Chuck Berry, Les Paul, and The Shadows get their due. None of these players are a perfect model for Thompson’s own style, but like him, they’re not given to busy lines, dwelling more on finding memorable phrasings.
Nearly 50 years ago now, Jim Morrison warned, “there’s danger at the edge of town…weird scenes inside the gold mine”, on The Doors’ epic Oedipal murder and fuck fest, “The End”. Seattle’s La Luz are hardly Doors doppelgangers, but they do share a basic aesthetic – one of a sunny beach-rover fit on a chassis of dread. The garage-surf-inspired sound has enjoyed a recent renaissance which, on the surface, would seem to lump La Luz in with that contemporary ilk, but they don’t so much trade in that sound as they do the more subversive variety of their west coast forbears from half a century ago.