Las Kellies—
Suck This Tangerine

Released 2020 on Fire
The Seth Man, July 2020ce
Las Kellies are two ladies who create and build up their Rock’n’Roll from the inside out with disarming depth. Meaning, they got soul, they got heart, they’re on first name basis with their core and muse and they weave everything out from THAT. In other words, they’re not just throwing around token phrases copped from the past with a fresh coat of paint. No, they paint with a coat of fresh, setting their tunes against gnawing repetition of simple bass and drums, Lorelei siren calls/cheerleader taunt vocals, and with overall accomplished naiveté they harness their abundance of inner grooves and hooks, by hitching clear but subtle female vocals to call and respond between fractious guitar bursts. The source of these exquisitely violent guitar riffs, Las Kellies’ guitarist Cecilia Kelly, has such immaculate control over the modeling, tone and sparseness of her chords that they nearly qualify as surf guitar riffing which, due to her expert use of echo, hints at how reverb and twang could make it proceed quite easily into the realm of the aforementioned instrumental genre. But as it exists here on this album, she sets her delicately boned wrist vertically to wring out yet another Banshees/Bernard Sumner metallic burst, alongside many other high water marks of post punk guitar from January 17, 1978 onwards.

With the dissonant drive of that era of sonic DIY racketeering, Las Kellies have nailed its entire approach so squarely and with so much confidence that, it makes its immediacy felt...IMMEDIATELY. For their musical viscosity slides with effortless friction and flow between silky vocal chants charged with kinetic rhythms and an irresistible power of yearn that churns forward as angular shards of female post-punk desire quietly explode while catapulting into realms of irresistibly catchy interplay between the crackling space of dub and the measured freneticisms of urban living, tight corners, and right angles -- represented here by a welter of highly considered and deeply felt guitar clusters that unwind perfectly and snap to attention in every way. Best of all, the punchy production fits the music like a glove, with no impositions whatsoever and just captures the energy -- all of it.

One could select any album by Las Kellies going back to their very first self-released pair -- “Shaking Dog!” (2007) and “Kalimera” (2009) -- and up to the present day of four additional LPs on Fire Records and be able to trace a solid progressing trajectory from their spirited’n’stripped down origins to an ever-blossoming heart of musicality and creative spark as one that hasn’t dimmed one bit. In fact, their most recent album, “Suck This Tangerine,” is a perfect summation of every era they’ve shuttled through -- from unschooled Shaggsian venting to post-punk dub, elements of unconstructed funk to lightly-varnished and suntanned pop hits into...this: Stripped down in both sound and personnel with guitarist Cecilia Kelly also handling bass duties while drummer Silvina Costa drives steady parallel beats like a Moe Tucker metronome for the bass to cluster in driving monotony while the aforementioned guitarist...Ah, that guitarist again. One more thing about this woman they call Cecilia Kelly: She’s a gang of one, scratch-ola top notch 6-string heroine, her riffing is note-perfect and her tone control is as wide as it is deftly applied -- switching as it does between a barrage of guitar shards that fly fast and furious to a constantly rhythmic guitar ultra-scrape that could burnish both hulls of both the H.M.S. and S.S. Post Punk in about the same amount of time it takes to play “Options R” by Wire. Which would be all of 99 seconds. And speaking of that particular double digit, I’d bet as much filthy lucre multiplied by ten that Las Kellies probably have absorbed the entire 99 Records discography (alongside Slits, Au Pairs, Delta 5, et al) and most of all ‘specially -- you guessed it -- ESG. Not least of all because they do a spiffy cover of the South Bronx sisters’ “Erase You,” but play it just as close to the bone, rhythmically tight and so effortlessly that Fire Records hadda put out a limited edition split single of both versions just to confuse people as to which was the orig! OK, maybe not intentionally. But that’s some erudite salesmanship right there, people!

The opener of the album is called “Closer.” Fucking smart. And a fucking tall order naming a track after what is the overachieving landmark of all post punk LPs. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t but either way: it hooks you from the start by laying down a rhythm like a spritely version of PiL’s “Albatross” minus the acidic commentary and plus dreamy vocals that are hugely echoed yet dissipate into waves of dust with each completed sentence. Like 1984-era Bananarama in a dub chamber teasing all comers into paralysis after they just stood up Robert De Niro but not before slitting all four tyres of his taxi, pouring sugar into the gas tank, and smashing both headlights with a tyre iron and then...well, you get the drift. Without a care in the world. That’s the mindset Las Kellies come from. And this form is asserted throughout this immaculate album. “Funny Money” continues with streamlined bass repetitions keeping the energy levels high as chant vox, congas, backing rhythms and vibraslap accenting keep the energy high and the rhythms propulsive. Meanwhile, Cecilia La Kelly sprays guitar solos thru the reverb and with the type of post-punk energy I’ve been on the constant lookout for since 1983. (Namely, any offspring of ripping Syd Barrett free guitar, the kind you won’t find in covers of “Lucifer Sam” but might find in stuff like “Let’s Build A Car.”) Oh, but it hurtles through the late night underground of both Buenos Aries and Rock’n’Roll, past all non-express stops while the girls hold on and standing up in the middle of a deserted car, laughing and singing in inspired tongues something like the repeating chorus of the next track, “Baby.” Spidery funk bass opens up with the guitar falling right in behind those throbbing bass frequencies and then...Those soothing vocals re-enter. “Bay-Bee...” they constantly intone, like the Lorelei vox of the Admiral’s daughter plus gal pals off the first Tom Tom Club album (“Lorelei” being the only truly sublime track on a record of cheerleader/sing-a-longs by T-Heads’ married rhythm section that us progressive fans all bought because ex-Zappa/Talking Heads/Bowie/Gaga/and then-current Crimso lead guitarist/ Midwestern Jimi Fender dude Adrian Belew appeared on. On a track called, predictably, “L’Elephant.”) Lines like ‘show me your moves’ and ‘sing me the blues,’ while throwaway phrases, here in context work well as vaguely suggestive devices what with those faint voices intoning them over that spidery bass, consistent drums plus all the shards of post punk glassware being shattered here.

After that trifecta of greatness, the shards of e-guitar jaggedness continue to scatter and recollect on the brief but beautifully unique and haphazard “He’s Who’s,” and at just as frenetic a pace. Combined with tumbling congas, wordless war whoops and echoed, fragmentary guitar signals that dissolve in cutaway but for guitar underscoring during the dramatic points of breakdown, it hurtles sideways until halting for the bridge. Then recommences solidly at the pace of wayward conniption fit.

“Matrixland” takes it all down to a slow and seductive dancefloor rhythmic as Las Kellies’ funk bass and spatially minimal drums operate as a rebar stirrup pulse behind the ever-scrawlin’ and squallin’ guitar with continual reiterations of “quiet your mind” plus vibraslap resounding in accent. “Just shut up and dance,” they intone as the slow grace of its undulation waves hello then says goodbye at the same time. So close and yet so far and ...Without a care in the world.

The kinetics increase with “Despite” due to the sort of destabilising off-beats so beloved of NYC No Wave. An ever-growing thicket of congas and drums consistently crowd the background like a Rousseau jungle until there’s no room for anything so Cecila Kelly whips out a jagged guitar line that soon doubles up and razes a relative clearing in order to launch a near surf guitar solo. With a post punk as fuck abrupt ending.

Near drum-less for half the time and double-minimal when it is, the growing and receding turbulence of “Charade” is also where Cecilia Kelly (here and there in several dimensions) has a spine that is the bass line, hovers over cavern-echoed vocals, and swims a deep electric ocean of echoplexed guitar where it builds, builds, BUILDS...Only to recollect and then once more explode and shatter outward into molecular disarray, continually building as it’s already in process of disintegration and shuddering into oblivion.

A simple drum beat, swiveling bass and then a rockin’ guitar splintery in its aggression falls in to assemble burning the end completely off of “Rid Of You.” As a cyclical harmony chanting off an endless succession (“what I choose,” “what I eat,” “what I wear,” etc) of things in order “to get rid of you,” Cecila Kelly consistently burns down throughout. Until she pauses and then, it’s only to set up another burst of unruly guitar fretting until it all fades off quickly at chorus’ end.

One could say of “Weekdays” that chanting the days of the week over a minimal beat could be about as Warholian a reinvention of reality as making oversized silkscreened Brillo pad boxes to be displayed in a museum to echo their equally commercial display on a supermarket shelf. (This and similar aspects of conceptual art occurred during the era of post-punk music, most notably with Public Image Limited’s “Metal Box” ensconced in an embossed film can that would roll off your record shelf if not carefully contained, Joy Division’s somber memorial of “Still” to the Durutti Column single with the sandpaper sleeve that, without appropriately heavy duty PVC sleeve housing or a special custom corrugated cardboard envelope, would ruin the sleeves of all adjacent singles after being removed and replaced couple of times.) Not to mention a possible nod to The Clash’s cover of The Equals’ “Police On My Back,” but I digress. “Weekdays” feature some beautiful spiraling harmony chants that dart back and forth in call and response like some psychedelic Medieval phrasing or tightly regimented Siamese fighting fish choreography. Or both. A different kind of tension results from the harmony call and response in “Let You Go,” where Las Kellies’ vocals march quickly and sharply over a simple, forceful beat while a perfectly microphoned buzzsaw rhythm guitar accordions into an echoed pile up not once but twice. One more chorus and then...Dead stop.

Las Kellie’s recollect themselves with the reflectively slow pendulum swing into spacey-ness that is “White Paradise.” Here, those Lorelei vocals return in order to intone slowly syllabic over skittering slide guitar echoes that float by in ripples. Meanwhile, as the bass line quietly stalks in the shadows, the hidden lagoon beckons while creepers fold away with each guitar riff.

The slow-paced finale, “Close Talker,” ends while the ever-breathless vocals intone over and over: “A-oooh / A-ahhhhh, ahhhhh, ahhhhh...” In the closest Las Kellies come to complaining (“I see your green hair/I really don’t care”), it’s more observational than anything else. Even when they sing, “I’ve had enough of you” as they sweetly throw shade, or given its present context in nomenclature more befitting of the world of 1981, kiss off a world of space invaders, there’s nothing more punk than just to shrug and move on.
Without a care in the world.

And for the final time, all cuts off abruptly.

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