Los Tones are a garage rock band whom in the past have walked the fine line between 60s teen surf/garage band throwback and reinventors very well, debut record Psychotropic is very much worth a spin. However, on What Happened (Groovie Records, Off The Hip) the band, championing a drier, fuzzier tone; has well and truly jumped on their motorcycles and left the beach behind leaving red dust all over that line to deliver a sinister blend of rhythm and blues, first-wave and modern garage rock.
Battery Acid proves a stellar opening track, following the tried and tested soft slower verse into a faster, louder chorus formula that can also be heard on later tracks on the record, Running of Time, in particular, sort of a tease as to what’s about to happen. Wasted hits, proving to be a highlight with a more rhythm and blues-inflected verse and the rhythm section picking up the pace, having a full-on rager of a party, throughout the choruses as guitars fire up and Bodie’s Seedlike vocal drawl becomes frenetic.
Without sounding out of place lead single The Door provides a changeup; a return of the psychedelic sounds of Psychotropic. Title-track What Happened is probably the one low light on the record, while it was nice to find out that the title is a question rather than a statement, a break-up ballad of sorts; it comes off slow, it begins steaming but fizzles out before it reaches boiling point. Los Tones throw a mean curveball in the form of the ayahuasca drenched ‘Eye Jammer’, bassist Shawn takes over vocal duties for the track evoking a primitive psyched-out image through the gnarly almost flange-like plate reverb on the vocal as well as the bass riff and guitar licks driving the track forward into three of the faster tracks on the album Sinking In, Rat Bag and Hold On. Closing out the record is Witch Hazel, an alternate to 2015’s Tim Dunn engineered version, ultimately a high note to end on.
Production wise Owen Penglis, of Straight Arrows infamy and the dude Warner entrusted to produce tracks for their ‘modern’ reworking of the original Nuggets compilation, has worked his mid-fi magic, allowing the band to sound like the band complementarily compressed to tape.
Music occasionally takes the form of the city it is written in, recorded in, produced in. The Sydney-siders have done just that, with the help of Penglis’ engineering expertise. What Happened is an album that captures the sound of Sydney. It’s dirty, it’s frantic, it’s dynamic; it’s utterly mesmerising.
Highlights: Wasted, Eye Jammer
Lowlights: What Happened