Review Summary: A strong outing with a few angry vibes that sould've been left in the studio.
When Lechuza came out in 2001, Drive-Thru was in the middle of their stride. New Found Glory was the next big thing (imagine that), Home Grown didn't suck yet, Rx Bandits put out 2 albums, and Finch was just about to release their EP. Times were good in SoCal pop-punk. Fenix Tx, 4 years after releasing their eponymous debut and 2 years after renaming it to avoid being sued, were perhaps the first in Drive-Thru's short hisory to test the label's recipe for success with a small twist of the usual fare. They adopted a style on Lechuza that set them apart from their pop-punk counterparts with not-so-subtle metal influences and an angry message that had been previously unseen in this type of music. The whole CD plays out like an elongated Nirvana song, if you will, soft(er), loud(er), repeat. This provides for some interesting interplay throughout the duration of the album, though of course nothing inaccessible for casual listeners.
Don't read too far into this though. When all is said and done, it's the same basic principle as any other pop-punk offering. The album kicks in with "Phoebe Cates", a fun and energetic ode to...Phoebe Cates. No surprises there. "Phoebe Cates" is not only a great opening track, but also a solid representation of their sound in general. The guitars are loud, fast, and bright, and contrast well with Will Salazar's upper register harmonies. Salazar belts out the often ringing melodies with authority. In fact, there aren't too many moments when only one voice is heard, as pretty much all the vocal tracks are harmonized. The drums are nothing special, and neither is the nigh-inaudible bass, but they don't get in the way, so no problems there.
After the melodic "Katie W." and the frenetic "Threesome", Lechuza's harder side jumps in the foray. "Something Bad Is Gonna Happen" is a mischievous little ditty that screams for attention. However, this song (and for that matter the other metal-ish songs) falters due to the fact that it comes off more like one of those times your best friend talks for 3 months about a crazy prank but never actually does it. It sounds like a way to let the music world know that Fenix Tx exists. That, plus the gang "hey's!" sound so mechanized that it becomes a chore to tune them out in the chorus.
No, Fenix Tx does much better sticking with their usual, as shown on "Tearjerker", the best track by far. "Tearjerker" is sad, heartfelt, and flowing, and is one of the times where it sounds like the band has let go and is just playing and having fun. Drummer DeLaPaz comes alive with a rolling beat in the verse that sounds like a pounding heartbeat.
"Manufactured Inspirato" is an exciting against-the-man rally that actually comes across as genuine rather than forced, which "anti-konformity" usually tends to become. Salazar takes on a chant rather than traditional singing to get across his message of "you can be whatever you want to be".
After "Beating a Dead Horse" which features screaming vocals that sound more like vomiting, and standard "Abba Zabba" comes "El Borracho", the mellow closer with some pretty varied and interesting guitar work. Translated, "The Drunk" meanders all over the place and wanders in and out of some weird chords. Supposedly, this is what it feels like to be the town drunk.
Lechuza won't open any eyes to those not already interested in pop-punk, but is a good listen for those who are. Ultimately it boils down to half a CD of really good songs and a few failed experiments along the way. It's good for a few listens the whole way through, but eventually you'll just want to skip through the bad ones.