Argentinian trio Las Kellies resurrect a retro sound on their new album Friends & Lovers with mixed results. Taking a cue from acts who on occasion employed a dance-punk aesthetic to their sound during the late 70s/early 80s (e.g., Public Image Ltd, ESG, The Slits), Las Kellies dabble in reverb-drenched post-punk and garage-psych grooves on their fifth full-length record.
Las Kellies’ latest LP kicks off with the infectious “Sugar Beat”, a song that wouldn’t have sounded a bit out of place if it were to have appeared on any international pop compilation cassette during the 1980s. With its quick drums and funky bass and guitar working in tandem, the song is an immediate standout and an excellent opener. “Tied to a Chain” manages to keep the groove alive by utilizing a similar tempo, this time with a reggae-inspired melody during the song’s verses before unloading a looser rock sound during the choruses. The rest of the tracks on Friends & Lovers’ first half showcase Las Kellies’ knack for turning otherwise simple chord progressions into fleshed-out melodic pop. The record’s second side, however, proves to be a laborious and fatiguing slog with few highlights.
Although neither of the back to back psychedelic dirges “Love Me as I Do” and “Breath of Light” exceed the four-minute mark, they seem to go on far longer than they should. It seems as though the deeper we get into the record, the more the vocals become obscured in the mix, buried under waves of unnecessary, unwelcomed echo. The last third of Friends & Lovers feels more like a dare, challenging the listener to continue to pay attention. “Sundays” attempts to turn things around just before the album’s end, offering a similar dance groove to the songs found on side A. But again, the lyrics are obscured to the point where you’re almost unable to tell whether they’re being sung in English or Spanish.
The first half of Friends & Lovers would have made for a solid EP. It’s a shame that the latter songs were largely spoiled due to poor sequencing and mixing choices. Las Kellies have been making music together for just over a decade, and while hardcore fans may be forgiving of the band’s latest uneven offering, new listeners would be encouraged to start with the aforementioned standout tracks on Friends & Lovers, only exploring deeper as patience permits.