Noting the tapping into of auditory wormholes from yesteryear is hardly a revelation when talking about a band like the Allah-Las. The Los Angeles quartet positively ooze with the reverbed vibes of Southern California psych rock ‘n’ roll, and continue toying with the template on their third LP, Calico Review.
Recorded at the legendary Valentine Recording Studios, in the bowels of Studio City in LA, Allah-Las immersed their already-written tunes in the aural baths of their idols. The ghost notes of forgotten magnetic tape snippets and the reverberations of Beach Boy harmonic specters permeates the vibe of Calico Review. Utilizing vintage equipment in a room with a lot of recording history, the band—as perhaps the most ardent (or at least celebrated) arbiters of the ‘60s rock revival today—were able to tap into the past in a more obvious way than with their previous two records, 2014’s Worship the Sun and 2012’s self-titled debut. This seemingly obvious placement in a historic studio gives songs like “Satisfied” and “High and Dry” the extra warmth of analog touch to drive the nostalgic overtones to groovy new heights.
If there must be an obvious single from Calico Review, it’s likely “Could Be You.” The third song on the LP resonates as a pure rock ‘n’ roll trope, boiling down six decades of formula to a raucous three-minute scorcher of a track, vocalist Miles Michaud singing, “Did you have to ask yourself while sitting in that bar/if you thought the world was gonna take you very far?/Without you ever knowing where to stand/left reaching in the dark for someone’s hand?”
Songwriting duties were dispersed generously between the four members of the band for Calico Review, making the record their first entirely collaborative jigsaw. This approach helps explain the diagonal trajectories at play on certain songs throughout.
“Autumn Dawn” emerges as a playful psychedelic number recalling the pseudo-California approximations of Eric Burdon, the sharp edges of melodic structure blunted by a lazy beachside breeze in the form of heavy-lidded harmonies and tangential guitar interplay.
“Famous Phone Figure” is another standout, using warm cellos to round out the analog fog, while “Warmed Kippers” plods along in molasses melodies and copious dollops of fuzzy guitar, emerging as perhaps the most psychotropic on Calico Review.
Tempting referential touchstones to the chameleonic psych-folk of icons like Ray Davies, Arthur Lee or the Zombies are expected with a band like Allah-Las. With Calico Review, however, while their influences may be emblazoned on paisley sleeves, theirs is a more thoughtful, paced delivery—something narcotic and slowed-down to match the easy-breezy muses the band conjures by proxy.
The album’s finale, “Place in the Sun,” is a classic rock ‘n’ roll tune, heavy on dark organs and moody lyrics. It’s a step away from the sunny California cabal and into the shadows and anonymity of maturing, typifying the necessity of timeless symbolism for cultural liberation, regardless of when or if it’s actually taking place.
There are more than a few bands hell-bent on exhuming and reinventing the past. Few are as adept as the Allah-Las.
For more from the Allah-Las, check out this performance video from SXSW 2013 in the player below.