Review Summary: I've done nothing the past ten years...
Spanish Love Songs are a 5-piece band from LA, filled with members approaching their thirties - the majority of which have spent the best part of a decade honing their craft on the local basement circuit. After a whole host of failed musical ventures, Spanish Love Songs perhaps represented a last shot at achieving the dream for everyone involved. Their debut album "Giant Sings The Blues" was enough to get them signed to Uncle M, as well as a tour to Europe, which helped them stumble onto Anti Flag's A-F Record label for EU releases.
In an interview with Punk Rock Theory, Dylan Slocum, lead singer and guitarist for Spanish Love Songs, described his band as "The unloved, not quite as cool bastard child of Jawbreaker and Hot Water Music if they had drunk break-up sex". If you're a fan of The Menzingers, Joyce Manor and The Wonder Years - I think you'll absolutely love this band.
If you Google "Spanish Love Songs" - you'll be greeted by a vast array of tracks by the likes of Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez, who sing about lusting after and loving others. Dylan Slocum does not sing about love and lust, but instead about the lost love that comes with a failed marriage and family members passing away. His often depressing lyrics are also incredibly self-deprecating throughout, with his abrasively blunt style to writing being reminiscent of Jeremy Bolm of Touche Amore as he delivers one of the best lyrical displays of the entire year so far.
The obvious comparison for this band is The Menzingers and 'Sequels, Remakes & Adaptations' is a fast-paced short track that you can't hear without thinking of the Pennsylvania Quartet, as Slocum and his band burst out after a slow tempo and strip backed opener in 'Nuevo'. 'Bellyache' which follows would not have looked out of place on 'After The Party' and the accomplished song writing transcends the bars and basements that this band frequent. As the melodic punk-rock anthem comes to a grand finale, Slocum proclaims "I don't think I could fix this if I found God. There's no drug in the world that could possibly wash this off".
'Buffalo Buffalo' kicks off with guitar tones that will remind pop-punk fans of 'The Upsides', but with a rougher production and a rawer vocal approach - this has the maturity and self-awareness of The Wonder Years' more recent material. 'Otis/Carl', is a song named for Slocum's Otis Redding-loving late Grandfather, who incidentally is the man that features on the album artwork. Dylan sings about his struggle to cope with the loss, "I'm on the docks again. Looking out at that awful ocean, watching the tide take you away... I hope you remember that I named my guitar after your favourite singer", yet despite its heavy subject matter you could still hear the words being shouted back at Slocum in a beer-soaked Burbank basement.
'Joana, In Five Acts', the album's lead single, is another track that dwells on the loss of a loved one, with Slocum and his band mate's delivering the stand-out performance of the record. As they build towards the crushing climax, Dylan repeatedly asks "Why'd you leave without me" before reaching breaking point and bellowing "SO WHY'D YOU GO" at the top of his lungs.
'It's Not Interesting' is actually one of the most interesting songs on the record, with the end of the song being reminiscent of "I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral" as towards the end of the song, Slocum's lines of self-doubt and anguish from previous tracks are combined in a manic montage with "I don't think I could fix this if I could find God" especially hitting home. The album's closer, 'Aloha To No One', sees the record come full circle as it's another stripped back acoustic number, with one line from Slocum epitomizing every aging underground punk musician that's still desperately trying to make it - "pushing 30, still playing house shows, waking up on beer soaked floors all alone... hoping we take it further this time".
To someone from the UK like me, when American punk-rock bands like The Menzingers, Modern Baseball and The Wonder Years nostalgically talk about playing basement and house shows it paints a vivid and warming, almost romantic picture in my head - but on this record, Slocum reveals the frustrations and disappointment that can come when you fail to get your big break out of it like the aforementioned bands have managed. But that frustration, that absolute desperation to finally succeed that seeps out of Dylan Slocum on ‘Shmaltz’ has helped shape the record that might well see them take it further this time.