Although you might be reading this from Argentina, the country Kellies call home, chances are you’re not. Chances are also that if someone tries to chat to you about a band from Argentina, an all-woman trio who play post-punk with scraps of dub and surf and exotica threaded through, such a prospect will seem exotic and Other-ly to you. Why wouldn’t it, really? I for one don’t really know anything about Argentinian music, because I haven’t been given the impetus to start looking. I mean sure, go out and find shit for yourself and all that; but without some kind of system of filtration, you’re talking about 200 or so countries, most of which have their own codified music scene, most of those then breaking down further on a regional basis. When you think about it like that, it strikes me as counterproductively RUDE to try and pretend that the provenance of Kellies is of no concern to you. I bet it means a lot to them.
At the same time, I don’t wish to make out that Kellies (you might also see them referred to as Las Kellies; they seem to drop and pick up the definite article interchangeably) are some sort of freakish savants from a land the last 35 years of Western culture forgot. It’s just rad when some music, played in a style you happen to be especially warm towards, bubbles up from somewhere you never get to hear about unless you make a specific effort. Thank you, non-print media, for giving me the word count that allows me to fully explain my blandly liberal stance on this hot button issue!
All that aside, Las Kellies is a totally kickin’ album for anyone who likes the springy, sinewy post-punk that came out of early-Eighties Britain (Gang Of Four, Young Marble Giants, Delta 5 – especially Delta 5) and the equivalent period NYC (Bush Tetras, ESG – more on ESG in a minute). Or anyone who wonders, aloud or alone, what burst out of the eggs laid by riot grrrl in the Nineties (bits of this 14-track, 32-minute album sound like rock-mode Le Tigre, or indiepop-mode Bratmobile, or bands who recorded two singles for Slampt Records or something then broke up), and if they still don’t care about hurting men’s feelings (based on the lyrics to ‘Prince In Blue’ or ‘Bling Bling’, no they do not). Or if the indie/punk international waters have proved pleasant sailing for you in the last few years, Kellies themselves having released their debut album Shaking Dog in 2007 (garage clatter and sugared melody is balanced in the same kind of way Mika Miko did on their last album, and The Coathangers do on their new one).
Kellies are a bit like all those things, but they are rarely if ever the same, and are often markedly different. That is to say, there are also surfy, spy movie-y instrumentals (or near enough) on here, in the form of ‘Adwenture’, ‘Bife Dos’ and ‘Um Dia No Brasil’. A portion of ‘Dance The Seance’ sounds like it’s based on the ‘Sleng Teng’ dancehall rhythm, but in a way that leaves you fairly certain this only happened by accident, which makes it seem all the sweeter. They cover ‘Erase You’, which is the best and punkiest song by New York’s sisterly disco hybridists ESG; it’s also better than their cover of Devo’s ‘Mongoloid’, which they tackled on Shaking Dog. There’s a song called ‘Scotch Whisky’, extolling the virtues of such in the manner of a Shonen Knife you don’t feel vaguely guilty about liking (side note: ‘whisky’ is the only thing listed under Activities & Interests on the band’s Facebook profile). Although the traditional musics of Argentina make little to no showing in Kellies’ music, Betty Kelly, the trio’s bassist, plays in a cumbia folk band called Betty Confetti y Su Conjunto Tropical. Oh, and part of the reason this album sounds so peppery and double-jointed is because it was mixed by Dennis Bovell, a canonical British studio engineer who has tinkered with a shit-ton of records either squarely in the dub reggae genre or indebted to it.
All of which leads to the bottom line of there not really being anything I can find to dislike about this album. Having only discovered Kellies a few months ago, it’s possible you might deem me late to the party (especially if you’re from Argentina… maybe), but they’re one of the best things in my 2011, and it’s not too late for the rest of you rubes either.
8Noel Gardner's Score