Los Chinches: Fongo – album review

Los Chinches – ‘Fongo’ (Movimientos Records)
1 April 2013

Described as ‘Psychedlic Peruvian Cumba grooves from London’, Los Chinches release their debut album and Paul Scott-Bates has a listen.

Formed in 2009, Los Chinches have a truly eclectic line-up from England, France, Peru and Columbia. Their sound is a unique mix of Cumbia (Columbian music popular in Hispanic America) and Chicha (a style of Cumbia that includes surf rock), together with huge splatterings of London Ska. It’s marvellous.

According to PR information, rhythm and lead guitarist Gareth Finnegan first came across Chicha when he was lost in the Peruvian Amazon (why he was there in the first place I have no idea). After his return to London (presumably after being ‘found’) Los Chinches was formed and their foray across the capitals club, folk and rock ‘n’ roll venues has cemented their reputation as a thoroughly entertaining live act who’ve now played many a live date & have also been seen at Glastonbury, Bestival and WOMAD.

‘Romantica Amazonica’ opens the album with theatrical grandness before settling into a ska groove with added percussion and a lovely traditional keyboard. The vocals are Columbian but despite this the hook is instant and memorable and the track zips along with prowess. There’s a hint of the surf guitar (or is it a Hank Marvin tribute?!) that comes later in the album and I defy anyone not to feel good or at least tap their feet.

The Ska grooves conintue with an almost oriental sounding guitar on single ‘Senorita, Can You Tell?’ This time with English vocals and a good old barrel of fun. You can almost imagine the band fooling around in the snow (!?) , or maybe not. Again, it’s as catchy as Chicken Pox at a pre-school nursery.


The jungle bird impersonation at the beginning of Chicha Love is just pure bonkers. I love it. There are two great percussion solos with more jungle noises and it’s fun, fun, fun. The promise of echoes of The Shadows’ front man comes in the shape of ‘El Longing’. The only slightly offputting thing in this track, and, indeed, throughout the album is the use of a pre-programmed cymbal sound. It’s strange that with such great percussion, Los Chinches have to resort to a pre-programmed sound, which I don’t have a problem with per se, it’s just that it is far too tinny and often doesn’t quite fit.

The title track comes from the name of “a mysterious deity, a visionary and a clown with a taste for jungle liquor and Amazonian beauties”. Who are we to argue? ‘Be Still My Beating Corazon’ is more of the same, great melody, great hook, great song.

It’s difficult to accept that the album is little over thirty-one minutes long over eleven tracks, but it’s enthralling and very entertaining. Imagine the pop sensibilities of an Absolutely era Madness, particularly ‘Return Of The Los Palmas 7’ and you probably won’t be far away. Ironically, Ceviche (Con Choclo)’ ends with the sound of clinking crockery in a cafe.

There’s more madcapness with the closing ‘Gracias’, surf guitar, frantic percussion and more repeats of the song title than you can shake a latin stick at. Thank you indeed.


All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.


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