Artists M - R
Back in the days when El Intercambio was just a twinkle in my tear-filled eye I wrote a review of my favorite Andalucian band at the time, the Oh Trikelians. Actually it was the 2nd review I had written about this band but the 1st to ever be published. This review was quite unusual by my standards. It was under 3 pages long, stuck to facts, didn't dither or wander and got to the point, that this band and this album (Revelaciones) were absolutely brilliant.
Now 18 months on, the Oh Trikelians (still one of my favorite bands), is back this time with a full-length album, (9 tracks to boot). An Album all sung in English (but all of the titles are in Spanish. Go figure.). Another great album (even if it took some time for me to realize it) and a set which rings in the changes introducing us to a new musical benchmark, the Oh! T, P.
With an intro reminiscent of a Kermit outro I am listening to the 1st guitar riffs of the new album by the OhTrikelians ‘TodosesAutomatico’ and I am finally about to brighten up my day. Excitedly analysing every iota of the track ‘JB’, I conclude that I am not quite sure about it. I like the basic components, the riffs backbeat and the singing style all competently done but this track goes through so many changes it just isn’t what I was expecting. Also it caught me off guard as the mixing sounds a little unhinged at the start which after 2 albums of absolute studio mastery at the hands of Jesús Gómez and Guillermo Ruiz is the least thing I expected to hear from an Oh! T’s track.
Feeling pretty much the same about the second track ‘Solo datos’ with the exception of the fantastic breakdown where it drops into a Bluesy vibe well suited to Jesus Gomez’s voice (which on this track he has stretched to a high falsetto almost reaching the pitch of Mika singing Grace Kelly), before stepping it back up to a more standard rock track feel. Two good tracks just not what I came here for, I was starting to wonder if since this was one of my favourite groups, maybe I was just expecting too much. At this point the only real hook I have into this album is the lead singer Jesus Gomez’s great voice.
One of the great things about being a reviewer is our capacity to be spectacularly wrong, (just ask The Tragic Company about my assumption of nepotism in the camp ). It appears to me that the Oh! T's have really gone for some musical evolution in this album. In fact it sounds to me as if some of the tracks on the album were in part a response to criticism. What I am hearing is a lot of creativity and skill but with amount of changes in style and texture it sounds to me like they might have over done it a little bit.
As anyone who knows me is aware I do not review albums I do not like. EL Intercambio is not a 'failed or wannabe musicians ego fest'. We do not stand as judge and jury on what is good or bad music, just promote and highlight what we think deserves attention. Although always happy to give constructive criticism I do not have the need (or indeed the right), to write about music that I only intend to criticize. I mean let’s face it; I am only giving my opinion. (One of the reason we need more voices and opinions Apply here ). But what if one of my favorite groups creates an album that falls into that category, What if I don’t like it? What then? I would say I was feeling uncomfortable but in reality, I was starting to panic.
Starting off with a great drum break it’s only in ‘Reflejos’, that I realize what has been missing; lulling me in with typical Oh T melody and soulful vocal they hook me immediately but they make me wait until mid-way through ‘Reflejos’ for that trademark Oh! Trikelians band jam. That wall of sound I first heard on Nemesis from their debut album Ludotheque. That thing they do so well, the reason I fell in love with this band in the 1st place. This had been omitted from the opening tracks. This element that I identify so strongly with this band, what I call the Oh! Trikelians wall of sound. Loud but not over bearing, hard but warm, rough yet smooth. Something that has appeared in pretty much every Oh Trikelian track I love. This is for me the rubber stamp that makes an Oh! T's track and this is what had been missing from the previous tracks. Not saying evolution is a bad thing, it is a good thing and a necessity for all true artists; I just was not sure at this point if what they had added was better than what they had left out. That said I was not destined to be disappointed for long because by the end of ’Reflejos” I had finally listened to something I had fully enjoyed.
Taking it to a deeper darker place with the intro to ‘Duermen’ it is with tracks 3 and 4 I first feel a return to are a return to what The Oh! Ts do best. Going from the powerfully mournful verse straight into that wall of sound this track is captivating by the second minute. ‘How can you be staring at the sun, your eyes will burn!!!!!’, ‘Awaken to your feelings of love!!!!’. Anthemic lyrics just waiting to be chanted by large crowds. And just when you think you have the measure of this track you realize that this was just the start because this is where the real genius kicks in as Antonio Banzan goes into what sound like the longest drum roll ever over a Guille lead riff and then dropping back into the Oh Ts wall of sound for the chorus all to the backdrop of that insightful introspective Oh T lyric. The Oh Trikelians past at their best.
This brings me to a point about track selection. If you are a group who already have a following who are trying out something different, it might be advisable to not put them as the 1st few tracks. Drop them into the middle of the album so not to alienate your fans by springing the new style on them too early. Back in the days when we went to record shops to buy our music the order of the day was to drop the needle on the album for 30 seconds to decide if you liked it and as such I might have passed up this amazing piece of work simply because the 1st few tracks were too far removed from what I had come to expect from this band. The sound and vibe I come to the Oh! Trikelians for.
Now satisfied and having drunk my Oh T trademark sound fill, I can finally appreciate the changes in direction and love what the rhythm guitarist is doing on ‘Espejo negro’, which begins with more of the drum rolling drum style from Antonio Banzan this time less manic and more funky. This rhythmic approach is great particularly great because rhythm guitars often get lost in rock bands in between the drive that the bass player creates and the lead guitar solos we have become so used to in our rock music. But this is a rhythm guitarist track something quite unusual in the genre and all the more enjoyable for it. Floating along on Javier’s rhythmic guitar strums like a leaf on a stream introducing elements of Flamenquita this was a variation in style I really could get with. Having a seriously commercial sensibility (see I told you not all commercial music had to sound cheap or lack talent). Back in the days this is what we would call ‘Radio play all day’ and this track has me wishing Spanish radio would get behind its own. I mean seriously if I heard this track play listed 12 times a day I still would not tire of it.
Having kept it funky but toned it down a bit on “Espejo Negro’, the intro to ‘El HijoSecreto de Adrian Brownie’ had me wondering exactly who had pissed the drummer Antonio Bazan off because by now he had made it very clear than he had decided to make his mark on this recording and had been killing it with his unique style of drum roll beat since the album started.
What is lovely about this album is it’s the perfect example of a group that is actually a group. Having waxed lyrical with my friend and Maestro Danni about the difference between a lead singer with a group of session musicians and an actual band, the Oh Trilelians present the perfect example of what he was trying explain. Unlike the bands that either start as, or via record company interference evolve into a lead singer and backing players. (A lead who they are eventually preparing to go solo). This album is a true album from a band, a real band where the importance of the contribution of every member is taken into consideration. In this type of band every member has an incentive to play to their best which can be seen by the standout performances of every member of the Oh Trikelians on different tracks. Antonio on Adrian Brownie, Javier on “Espejo Negro’, Jesus on ‘DirrecionEquivocado” and Guillermo on just about everything. Working together with every member supporting the other with the aim of making each other look good, you get tremendous results and I am listening to them right now. With a breakdown almost reminiscent of ‘The Doors’ the Oh T's continue with their magic especially in the form of the listful yearning vocal lead.
Listen, the thing about Jesus Gomez’s vocals is that he has the ability to sing from his soul, in fact, he is actually a soul singer, not a soulful rock singer but a soul singer singing rock. (Something I suspect he is completely unaware of) and that is why his vocals always touch me. “Drag me down with your endless sorrows” sung with pain and intention. Brilliant vocals which whether they are technically perfect would not matter a jot because he sings from a place that most technical singers couldn’t imagine. And then of course there are the lyrics. ‘You are so oblivious, of what you are, you deny the obvious’, ‘ separate your issues from your wishes’, this is the introspective intimate song writing that hooks me every time and like so many of their previous releases echo thoughts & feelings at the very core of my being. Whilst hooked into this soulful story tell and just to end it all off, 'EL HijoSecreto..' comes with that Wonderful wall of sound, a wonderfully warm Oh! T errrrr....... Wonder wall of sound and now I am happy again. If you are into sense enhancing substances this is the part you will want to play really, really loud. Another dramatic change towards the end of 'EL HijoSecreto..', This time unlike how I felt about some of the earlier tracks the constant changes in style actually work.
TodosesAutomaticois a perfect English spoken album. That said it would be great for the Oh Trikelians to do a track in Spanish. I understand if they feel that this may alienate their international appeal but in my opinion like K.N.K and the fact that I’ve been doing The Eclectic show and GGRRRRRHHH!!!!! Where I have been playing majority Spanish language music has made me realize that good music truly has no language barriers. And I am sure that some of the English fans would enjoy the poetry that the Spanish language would add to the vocal sound scapes of the Oh! Trikelians songs.
‘Dirrecionequivocada’ is probably the track I would have started the album with. Jamming it hard from the outset with a fantastic rift and lead guitar creating an instant classic. With a grunge ting to the usually warm captivating OH T's Wonderwall of sound this is the point at which the Oh! Trikelians hit perfection between where they are and where they want to be. Between what they can do perfectly and what they are working towards. This track having a change in lyrical style from the usual personal and introspection the Oh! T's do so well to an outward social analysis, marking another change for me in evolution of the group. Taking the warm and cuddly out of the wall of sound this is on the way to the Rock on the Rock club music, Early morning wake up oh shit I’m late drive to work music, Late night 3 o’clock in the morning empty Carraterra to hell with the speed limit fast drive home music, either way play it in your car and play it Hella loud.
'The more I learn the more I suffer' are the lyrics which catch my attention, reminding me of why I now own three Oh Trikelians albums and drawing me in to the final and title track of the album ‘TodosesAutomatico’. Instantly recognizable as to why this was chosen as the title track being the most Oh Trikelian, Oh Trikelian track on the album, almost like the Oh Trikelians imitating themselves and doing a bloody good job of it. This is the track that takes all of the elements I loved from the last two albums but without repeating them. It takes all of the energy and ideas but presents them afresh. An Oh Trikelian Perfection or 'Oh T P' if you will. Being yourself only better, sounding just like you always do only more advanced. This for me is the new benchmark by which I will judge new albums from groups I have reviewed before. Everything is there, rolling lead guitar, soulful vocal imperfect perfection, drum roll back beat, deeply personal insightful message, if anyone asked me why do I like this group I could give them a mix tape or I could just play them this track. Changing style after the first chorus to a bluesy breakdown with an almost dub step drop. Once again I find where the Oh Trikelians are trying to get to, mixed perfectly with that voodoo that they already do so well. After the third change of style I realize that ‘Dirrecionequivocase’ was just a tease. This track is Oh Trikelian perfection. An utterly enjoyable experience from start to end and a perfect way to end the album.
Groups need to grow, experiment and mature and on this album this has been achieved, (just in my opinion presented with the tracks in the wrong order). If you are a fan of good music especially if you don’t have Ludotheque or Revelaciones), you need to own a copy of this album, and if you do own the previous two this is a perfect addition to your Oh Trikelians collection. Everything is automatic I truly doubt it, this type of writing and musicianship takes great skill and practice and reminds me that I am in the presence of a truly great band who long past my inane ramblings will surely go on to have a great career. More importantly they are a real band, which in this world of controlled and contrived music is as refreshing and comforting to hear as their music is. All said it still sounds to me like the Oh! T's were trying to answer their critics with this 9 piece set, (something methinks they tried a bit too hard). As such I wish they had just taken my approach and told their critics to go f88k themselves because for all the evolution and creativity herein they still sound their best when they are doing the Oh T P, sounding like themselves and doing what they do best.
Point of note by the time of printing I had been totally converted to the first two tracks on the album, especially the catchy as hell 'Solo Datos'. Talking about answering their critics I also realised that I too was affected by this problem. I was trying to answer mine in this review by trying way too hard to find fault with this album rather than just telling the truth which is, yes I am a fan and yes I am biased but this is a fantastic album and the best thing they have done to date. Once I had adapted to the experimentation I realized that this album is pretty much perfect, that is my opinion and if you don’t like it, well…, well then skip back a paragraph and it will tell you exactly what you can do.