On their self-titled debut album, Allah-Las, an exceptionally tight Los Angeles outfit brandishing unabashed adoration for Nuggets-era garage, the Paisley Underground, and all things distinctly Californian, deliver a superb collection of jangling, backward-leaning rock and roll songs that rattle the brain and get the body shaking like true classics. Every cut on Allah-Las brings a vicarious glory on first listen, whether of the fever of British Invasion blitz, kaleidoscopic Haight-Ashbury flower power, or riding crystal blue waves in the Southern California sun. The songs get more lived-in with every obsessive listen; soon enough, you’re assuming a rewritten history where Allah-Las had a string of late ‘60s #1s, and you know their iconic history from Little Steven’s Underground Garage, vintage super 8 films, tell-all bestsellers and their late-career resurgence as touring relics.
To deny such a confounding rewrite of the annals of rock and roll history from a largely unknown band on a debut album is to deny the inexplicable power of Allah-Las’ achievement. The band (Miles Michaud, vocals/guitar, Pedrum Siadatian, electric guitar/vocals, Spencer Dunham, electric bass/vocals, and Matthew Correia, drums/percussion/vocals) formed in 2008 while three-quarters of its members were employed at Amoeba Music in L.A., and they obviously encountered a wealth of garage and Paisley Underground goodness to flesh out their coming-of-age fondness for The Zombies and The Byrds. Allah-Las’ producer, Nick Waterhouse, a 26-year-old prodigy of a songwriter, musician, and producer (with his own knockout debut under his belt in 2012) who has an analog-only predilection for all sounds timeless, groovy and 45-ready, recorded the album at the famed Distillery in Costa Mesa.
Allah-Las serves up an infectious breed of mid-60’s Stones/Nuggets/Zombies-style rock and roll heavy and on Byrds-like jangle and impeccable production. “Busman’s Holiday” is pure Aftermath-era Stones pounded home on surf rhythms and tasty production ornamentations. “Catamaran” conjures the tide rolling up to the Southern California shore at daybreak and is primed for an all-day beach party by the time the verses and “I wanna be your man” chorus kick in. “Don’t You Forget It” rides a Yardbirds-style guitar line towards slow-burning perfection, while “Ela Navega” channels The Ventures for surf-heavy bossa nova. “Long Journey” is a mid-album standout in an album full of outright hits. Chugging out of the gate on a thick bass groove in contrast to the dreamy surf of “Ela Navega,” the song is an expertly orchestrated gem benefiting from cavernous background moaning, a climbing chorus, and a positively mutant and psychedelic riff between the verses. Rarely does a line “I’m heading down by the river to kill your daddy tonight” sound simultaneously ominous and rousing, but it’s one in a thousand fine achievements the Allah-Las and Waterhouse pull off during the course of the album.
“No Voodoo” suits up in shimmering Paisley Underground hues while crafting vocals in the vein of “Heart of Stone.” “Sacred Sands” again crafts a stunning Ventures-indebted instrumental while dancing along the shoreline with a mellow groove and a thrilling guitar solo reminiscent of The Yardbirds. The band utilizes group harmonies sounding like they were excavated from a cave as Michaud sings “You flew too close to the sun” on “Sandy.” “Seven Point Five” mellows out with a sun-streaked, hazy groove behind Michaud’s tried-and-true young Jagger delivery. “Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind),” originally released as a 7” single, is a delicious, “Gloria”-tinged slice of garage gold that surely has the ghost of Brian Jones toe-tapping in his grave and singing along to the heavens. “Vis-A-Vis” closes out Allah-Las’ debut in kaleidoscopic perfection with Byrds-heavy jangle and a foot slipped into the soft ‘80s sand, as Beachwood Sparks have done in impressive fashion for well over a decade.
Allah-Las are a damn fine band with exquisite tastes in influences and a total lack of regard for whether or not they’ll be considered revivalists. They (and Waterhouse) are audiophile scavengers of the best kind: the kind that infuses the DNA so deep into their blood that their hearts run stronger because of the transfusion. Allah-Las aren’t merely paying homage to their heroes; they’re creating immaculately constructed songs from all their deepest loves and generously offering them up to a less-knowing generation. For any doubts of that assessment or curiosity in exactly who these loves may be, refer to the band’s hugely addictive mixtapes of beloved influences that they have been churning out on a steady basis under the title of Reverberation.
Surely, there will be many critics who deride Allah-Las for their shameless resistance of any trends that have transpired in over the past 20 (if not 40) years. The sounds of Allah-Las are both distinctly un-2012 and timeless in their abilities to strike your ears as immaculately conceived and fresh today as they would have over the airwaves in 1967. Damn the times, the trends and naysayers. Snatch up Allah-Las before the trends of 2012 relegate them to the status of vinyl crate goldmines like their lost 45 heroes, where their analog recordings of impeccable garage melodies and grooves are prophesied to be sampled for years to come by all of the Pro Tools fiends and laptop DJs.
Allah-Las will be available Sept. 18 via Innovative Leisure.
“Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind)” Video
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