March 14th, 2011 | Album reviews

Elsa Henderson

Allah-Las “Catamaran”
(from “Catamaran” 7″ out Apr. 4 on Pres Records Co.)

Two cool-cloudy-creepy songs that come from the secret side of the 60s—the kind of songs they bootleg cuz no reputable company cares to be aware, from the kind of bands who come and go in the space of one weird lonely howl. Greg Shaw once said this kind of thing was bottomless, and I agree—it’s music that goes down forever, and Allah-Las don’t mind a night dive, so here we are. I feel like we’ve got two separate but converging sounds at work with this 45. First, we’ve got British bands whose only conception of America was as a lawless Bizarro World where the surf smashed right into the swamp and tough old bluesmen protected themselves with loaded pistols and hoodoo, and so they wrote to sound like that—Nashville Teens, early Pretty Things, and the Animals, when no one was there to tell Eric Burdon to take a deep clean breath. And second, we got American bands who already had lawless bizarro-land installed in their heads—“We’re ALL heads,” as a wise man once said—and just tried to fake straight long enough to not get arrested on the way to the record company, which is Safe As Milk Beefheart, 13th Floor Elevators, the Seeds, Fred Cole’s Lollipoppe Shoppe, etc. Allah-Las are somewhere in between, and what that gets us now is laid-back lope-along songs that (like the Elevators, or like a chunk of junk you peel out of the muck at the beach) are just wriggling with secret life underneath. “I’m gonna get you, girl… ” they sing only once on A-side “Catamaran,” but they should sing it about sixty-six times (like the Troggs surely would have) because it seizes perfectly the menace and romance of a monster in love. Nice bristly guitar line and organ played most likely by a single thorny thumb—possibly producer Nick Waterhouse?—elevates this way past the “like surfsville, man!” (or “like creepsville!”) vibe that sinks a lot of these bands. B-side “Long Journey” crabs along under a cool tick-tock rhythm line and fuzz guitar kinda like “Journey To Tyme”—all the same journey, anyway. Beware or possibly enjoy.

—Chris Ziegler