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Album Review: Davila 666 – Tan Bajo

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While Davila 666‘s Tan Bajo makes an extremely strong case for the oft-stated claim of music being a universal language, it’s interesting to note that perhaps the least notable quality of the Puerto Rican garage-rock revivalists’ second record is only a couple licks of it are sung in English. Just as Gogol Bordello’s jaw-droppingly awesome live sets regularly inspire full-fledged shout-alongs in their native Romany by audiences at clubs and festivals around the world, Tan Bajo relies on little else than a tight grasp on vintage garage rock and protopunk, a curious knack for writing memorable melodies, and an unruly sense of fun that’s completely unbound by the limits of any ostensible language barrier. Even though they are quite capable of dabbling in a wide range of styles, like buzzing noise-pop on ”Si Me Vez” and girl-group harmonies on the positively Spector-esque “Yo Seria Otro”, the sextet sounds best with their amps and fuzz pedals cranked up to 11, as on the joyous romp/riot “Mala”.

There is a catch, though. Once Tan Bajo sets in, a certain homogeneity becomes pretty apparent, and much of the album starts to run together after a couple of listens. Even so, the Puerto Rican outfit throws together more than enough hooks, riffs, and shout-along choruses to to set themselves apart from the all-too-wide array of White Stripes/Strokes/Hives imitators that have clogged the blogs/airwaves since the turn of the millennium.

Truly, one of Tan Bajo‘s best traits is that Davila 666 makes no bones about wearing their influences and heroes on their collective sleeve: All but one of the six members have adopted the Davila surname, Ã  la Ramones, while the dedication of Tan Bajo to the late lo-fi legend Jay Reatard draws an apt comparison in more ways than one; for much of the record, frontman Carlito Davila’s hoots and hollers could easily pass for those of a Spanish-fluent Reatard. In addition, the scuzzy guitars and primal rhythm section exhibit an impressively deep knowledge of classic Stooges, Sonics, and the like, and a dedication to the sort of furious rock and roll spirit that doesn’t come around very often. While wild, boisterous garage rock is hardly hip in mid-2011, the breakneck speed and balls-out ferocity of Tan Bajo would be welcome at any time.

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