¡Escucha! The Spanish Invasion

Music Features
Share Tweet Submit Pin

Spain has a long history of fantastic bands that get little attention outside the Iberian Peninsula. A surge of groups began sprouting up in the late ’70s, finally freed from the shackles of Franco dictatorship, which lasted almost four decades before ending with his death in 1975.

Spanish rock lives on. And Paste has scoured the far regions of Spain—amid the bad techno and even worse metal bands—to bring you eight of the best.

Gora Japon
This duo from the industrial city of Bilbao are difficult to pin down, mixing electronic, free jazz and rock into a tightly wound package. Boy-girl vocals are sung in English, Spanish and occasionally in their native Basque language Euskera. While the two-piece’s music is much sunnier than their city of origin, they still don’t mind exposing their own dark underbelly. Gora Japon’s excellent 2008 debut is a good place to start, but the song “Bedeinkatua”—released on a recent Basque rock comp—is pure, electrified ear candy, and an enticing indication of what’s to come. Live, Gora Japon are known to spiral into improvised guitar and drum freakouts that could raise even Glenn Branca’s eyebrow.

Vocalist-bassist Juan Rodriguez was searching for someone to sing on a few of his songs when he stumbled upon bewitching vocalist and keyboardist Teresa Cobo. The two are now the core songwriters of Madridian noise-pop band Dolores, a moniker taken not from a woman’s name, but rather the Spanish word for “pain.” It makes sense. Their debut LP Disco Póstumo (“Posthumous Disc”) is filled with dark songs in the spirit of Joy Division. Guitars are gravelly, softened by reverb, while synths frantically buzz in one ear and out the other.

Borja Laudo took on the moniker Bigott after earning the nickname for that dandy of a bigote sprouting from his upper lip. The shaggy singer/songwriter lays his hyper pop stylings over surrealistic lyrics that are at times zany, but never jokey. Laudo sings in English, explaining to one interviewer in Spanish, “Because I don’t want to understand my lyrics.” The result is songs like “Dead Mum Walking” and “She is My Man.” It would be easy to write off Bigott if he didn’t write such good songs. “Cannibal Dinner” from the band’s latest long-player The Orinal Soundtrack is an off-beat disco track that continues Bigott’s evolution from freak-folkist to full-fledged pop-art band. It’s also getting the band more attention in America.

Beach Beach
The island of Mallorca off of Spain’s Mediterranean coast is becoming quite the hot spot for hawt rawk, and Beach Beach has already claimed their own plot of sand. The duo claims that starting a band is the only way to stave off the boredom of Mallorcan winters. Their name may sound like a day at the beach, but their jangly guitar rock is deceptively complex, with occasional political barbs to go with those pop hooks. “Tasteless” from the band’s latest album Tasteless Peace brings to mind the early punk leanings of the Police. And at just over two minutes, it gives a welcome facelift to the old adage, “don’t bore us, get to the chorus.”

The “shitgaze” phenomenon had its day, occasionally allowing bands to mask crappy songs by recording on to even worse tape machines. Montañas definitely reside at the lower end of the fidelity scale, but their energetic rock still manages to jump through the speakers. Bass is non-existent, but the guitars do all of the heavy lifting, bending in and out of tune and demonstrating moments of beauty among the frantic strums. The Asturian trio’s 10-inch vinyl LP is a diamond in the rough, a hybrid of garage rock and post-punk captured perfectly on the song “La Barra” and “Yo Conduzco, Ella Me Guía.” Plus there are handclaps, and you can never go wrong with handclaps.

Varry Brava
Their chic wardrobe and sparkly electro pop bring to mind forever-pretty boys of Duran Duran—and who couldn’t use a little refresher course in ’80s headiness—especially during these stark economic times. The title of Varry Brava’s latest Demasié says it all—rough translation: “over the top.” It’s a concept driven home by an album cover with more pastels than a basket of Easter eggs. The album blurs the lines between disco, new wave and dance pop. If Varry Brava doesn’t make you want to dance, you may want to place your pointer and middle fingers together on your favorite pulse point.

Guadalupe Plata
The White Stripes  are dead, but Guadalupe Plata is alive and well. This trio from Úbeda, located in the southern region of Andalusia, has a serious case of the blues. And perhaps a few more issues as well. Their ramshackle blues is inspired by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, swamps, Satan and snuff films. There is plenty of whacked-out slide guitar, tasty licks and chooglin’ boogie to be feasted upon throughout their self-titled platter. Their latest EP with punk-rock harp player Walter Daniels is a sinister take on already sinister classics by Suicide, Gun Club and Chicago bluesman Hound Dog Taylor. The blues can fall flat in the wrong hands—Guadalupe Plata will make ya sweat.

Named after a form of Taekwondo, but with a sound far more delicate, Poomse takes a page from the wide-open indie rock of Yo La Tengo, pitting aimless druggy passages against more rigid pop structures. This Mallorcan trio takes full advantage of the studio, incorporating glockenspiel, melodica and an array of whooshes and bleeps to the standard guitar-bass-drums configuration. “Kitchen Floor Epiphany” from the trio’s latest Star EP is tells of a poor soul lying on the kitchen floor counting the stains on the ceiling, believing nothing bad is ever going to happen. Songwriter Llorenç Rosselló paints some wonderful pictures throughout, but they ain’t always pretty. These guys must live for those Mallorcan winters.

Also in Music