Las Kellies: Total Exposure – album review

Las Kellies: Total Exposure (Fire Records)

CD/LP/DL

Available from 16 Sept 2013

8/10

Argentinian post-punkers get a successful dub makeover on their fourth album which features contributions from Dennis Bovell and Ian Svenonius. Cool trajectory through the roof, claims Glenn Airey.

It’s like a party, this album. In fact, it’s like a whole party season. Beach parties, dinner parties, punky reggae parties, all are catered for among the fifteen tracks miraculously crammed into its 34-minute running time. I could give you some idea of the fearsome levels of cool that await within by flagging up the presence of guests Dennis Bovell and Ian Svenonius, but that would be a serious disservice to Las Kellies themselves. Total Exposure isn’t mere glory by association but the fully-realised album that Ceci and Sil Kelly, now joined by bassist Adri, have been building towards on its rougher and readier, but no less likeable, predecessors.

Buenos Aires dub supremo Iván Diaz Mathé has brought his expertise to this latest Las Kellies party with spectacular results, adding a sheen and slowing things down here and there, while clearing out the clutter and creating space for Adri in particular to work magic with her funky, fluid basslines. Formed in 2005, this is the band’s fourth LP, and the second to be released by Fire, one of those dependable labels you can trust to put interesting records before you as a matter of course.

The more sophisticated new Las Kellies sound is certainly to the fore on the opening three tracks, not least on the elegantly languid Golden Love. Just in case the dinner party guests are getting a bit TOO comfy, however, the sound system is swiftly commandeered and things take a turn for the dubwise. Jealousy rides in on the sonorous tones of Dennis Bovell, head chef on The Slits’ Cut of course, as well as countless other scorchers. He mixed Las Kellies’ previous LP for Fire and treats the girls here to some fruity flattery before drifting away to return in a few songs’ time.

 

Next up is the rootsier A Youth, allowing a couple of minutes’ chill time before the album really takes flight with the terrific punk-funk triple-header of King Lion, La Fiesta and Post Post. Typical Bitch is great power-pop with a twist of the Shonen Knife, while Go V! Is the most straightforward rocker here. Glam chords fizz overhead but the bass remains the pivot and a drums’n’animals interlude tips things back in favour of the exotic.

Time for a duet, and Two Types features a splendid guest appearance by none other than Ian Svenonius. In typically silver-tongued style, he mulls over his preferences and unsurprisingly proves to be the hippest chat-up merchant on the block. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you if he gets anywhere, but here’s a clue: this guy has been in the Nation of Ulysses, the Make-Up and Chain & the Gang. What do you think?

The killer tracks keep coming. Drummer Sil, whose inventive playing is crucial to the shifting mood of the whole record, gets militaristic on the shortie, Illa San Simon, and Dennis makes another welcome cameo as a jobsworth airport official on the cautionary Don’t Look Suspicious. Las Kellies have spent a lot more time in airports than I have recently, so I’m inclined to take this sound advice on board. Closing track Mistico sounds like the theme from a great lost ‘50s detective show, albeit one being watched while Rip, Rig and Panic rehearse in the flat downstairs.

ESG and the Slits predominate as influences but never overpower Las Kellies themselves. Culturally important signpost bands like that rarely get to fulfill their potential in terms of recorded output, being too far ahead of their times, I suppose, so there’s plenty of space left for their offspring to operate within and paint with colours of their own. If there’s a criticism, it’s simply that some of these tracks feel frustratingly short when you’d happily stay settled in the groove for another five minutes or so. Still, brevity is the soul of wit and all that, and wit is something Las Kellies demonstrate in abundance here, along with some righteous punk, funk and reggae chops. Put a smile in your summer while there’s still time.

Befriend Las Kellies on Facebook here. They seem a nice bunch.

All words by Glenn Airey. You can read more of Glenn’s writing for Louder Than War here or follow him on Twitter as @GlennAirey.

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