Album Review: Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone
You don’t have to be a tortured artist to make good art, but it can help. Think about all the great albums that are rooted in the pain and suffering of the songwriter behind them. Whether the inspiration is death, heartbreak, mental illness, religion, the state of the world or something else, music has served as a means of catharsis for as long as people have been making it.
To say that Spanish Love Songs wear their trauma on their sleeves is an understatement. Fronted by vocalist/guitarist Dylan Slocum, the LA-based quintet have been venting their various frustrations via their Menzingers-ish, gruff-yet-melodic punk rock since 2015’s debut LP, Giant Sings The Blues. Things are no better on this third record. ‘It won’t be this bleak forever,’ Dylan sings on second track Self-Destruction – his voice trembling, as it usually does, as if he’s on the verge of tears – before adding a sly, sarcastic ‘Yeah, right’ to an already unconvincing statement. The truth is – as this album’s title suggests – everything is fucked. These are tales of broken hearts and broken homes, drug abuse and booze, friends dying and loved ones lying, not to mention the drudgery of day-to-day life in a world that, as Dylan sings on Kick, is going to do just that to you. In other words, it will be this bleak forever and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.
That’s fine, of course, and Spanish Love Songs should be congratulated on laying everything on the line so honestly. There’s no filter here, no masking the hurt that flows through the downbeat narrative of Beach Front Property, or the anxiety-ridden nerves of the only-slightly-ironically-titled Optimism, on which Dylan proclaims that he’s ‘Done dying on the inside / Now that everything is dying outside’. That’s one of more successful instances where the largely internal micro-focus of these songs becomes macro, while earlier in the same song he rails against late-stage capitalism in a rather more blunt fashion: ‘Can’t even have my coffee without exploiting someone or making another millionaire a billionaire.’
But while there’s no denying the heart at the centre of this record, it can feel too eagerly earnest at times. Partly, that’s down to Dylan’s vocal warble, which some listeners may find off-putting. But then, in the relentless misery you’re also never too far away from a wry smile, as another lyric dealing with unhappiness is wrapped up in a smart lyrical couplet. It’s okay to not be okay, and Spanish Love Songs celebrate that with no small amount of knowing grouchiness here. The result is an album that’s not perfect – but those who get it will fall in love with it.
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