Allah-Las – Allah-Las
There are only so many Nuggets. Early in the days of discovery, finding gold’s a lot easier. After a while, however, the digging becomes a drag as the breakthroughs become fewer and less frequent. Tiresome as it may be, the most fervent of fuzz followers endure – and, every once in a while, are handsomely rewarded by bands like the Allah-Las.
The Los Angeles-bred outfit’s been toiling away since 2008, somehow unable to get it together, whether for reasons financial or fussy, until now. And thank goodness they did. Their self-titled debut is retro revivalism at its finest, a blend of psych and surf that’s audibly well-informed. As much as they can be likened to more popular members of each canon, like 13th Floor Elevators or Them, the Allah-Las put enough beach in their beat to incur an Os Mutantes toll, too. Above all else, the original LA psych scene, over which the Byrds and Captain Beefheart and the Seeds and Iron Butterfly reigned, is the specific fire they’re stoking – and in that delicate of a manner.
The Allah-Las are a featherweight version of their predecessors, offering a mood that’s at times as leisurely as a sun-drenched day, and occasionally as hazy as the lazy aftermath. They soak in an offset lagoon rather than battle the breakers. It’s quite pleasant.
Booming bass underscores the twang of surf-style riffs on “Catamaran.” Shakers illuminate the beat, a mesmerizing effect when combined with the repetitious guitar. Phrases like “I’m gonna get you girl” and later “She don’t care if I got bread” on the equally hypnotic “Don’t You Forget It” lend some historical authenticity, but there are moments – mainly lyrically – when time reveals itself, and the Allah-Las show their 2012 timestamp. The subtle freakishness of old-school psych isn’t particularly present for them; that revelatory, mind-gone-nomad aspect of the genre is sometimes out of reach for bands. (It’s not impossible to achieve, though. See neighborhood counterpart White Fence.) Most promises of expounding upon ideas along that wavelength aren’t kept. “No Voodoo,” for one, is aesthetically astute, but can’t withstand closer inspection.
“Sandy,” however, with its talk of a girl’s mind lost and her perilous proximity to the sun, plays the part just right. It’s a swaying number, a standout that subtly borrows notes from the Stones’ “Play with Fire.” Some hints of tropicalia are found in the fairly languid instrumental “Ela Navega,” which is a nice break from the brand of twang that’s persisted thus far. “Catalina” works similarly, but exists closer to that recurring melody, and aside from intro riffs, that’s the final break. A lot of psych is just as rhythmically repetitious, which for some is part of its charm.
The lyrical content surely does matter, though. But while they may not have achieved any level of third-eye mysticism, the Allah-Las are by no means near philistine-caliber contemporary. There’s something to cherish here, some gratitude owed for this gem. The Allah-Las should be greeted by the modern-day world of psych with no trepidation – but maybe someone should slip a laced joint into their welcome basket.