The summer holidays may be nothing more than a distant memory, thankfully there are other, slightly less conventional, ways to bring back the sunshine. Throughout their 11 years as a band Allah-Las have been a consistent source of sweet, sweet summertime vibes. On 'LAHS', their fourth studio album, the Los Angeles group return to pay their respects to the Sun God, to mixed results.
It all starts well enough. Allah-Las have always sounded like a particularly sun- kisssed photograph from the 1960s, if a sun-kissed photograph from the 1960’s could sing. On opener ‘Holding Pattern’ you can almost feel the burn of those West Coast rays. Perrin Siadatian’s softly melted guitar solo take you to a higher place. Somewhere dead nice, like Scarborough on a hot day, or perhaps even Whitby, if you’re lucky.
Unfortunately, this feeling doesn’t last long. It’s immediately apparent that Allah-Las have really, for want of a better phrase, “grown up” while recording 'LAHS'. Everything seems more efficient, more planned, and more generic. Following this maturing process, the group have lost the sense of urgency and excitement from previous records.
While they’ve always sounded like Black Lips’ overly studious cousins, on 'LAHS' they take it to the next level. Gone is any sense of grittiness, replaced instead by Beach Boys-esque pop standards that, while perfectly pleasant, just slightly miss the mark.
'In The Air' in particular could have come straight from the mind of a pre- Pet Sounds Brian Wilson. The track is a jolly little jog down the west coast, obligatory ice cream break included. It’s pleasant enough, and you enjoy it while its happening, but something just seems to be missing.
Throughout the album the group take the odd detour from this classic sound, introducing a global twist to proceedings. This change in tack feels like an attempt to fill the aforementioned void but, well... it doesn’t really work. 'Roco Ono', while aiming to breach new ground, ends up giving off a slight whiff of trad-rock.
As has become increasingly the case for Allah-Las, these days the group’s psychedelic rips make way for a much plainer, safer sound. Likewise, ‘Electricity’ evolves from promising beginnings into a rather strange psychedelic elevator ditty, which isn’t as good as it might sound. Think incense-stick-scented Muzak, rather than Roky Erickson electric wig-outs.
'LAHS' is the sound of a band in transition. A record where the sunshine is too few and far between. They’ll surely be back on track before long, but for now, we’re going to have to look elsewhere for that aural vitamin D.
Words: Jack Docherty
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