THE US REVIEW Kellies – Las Kellies (Fire)
by Scott Creney
This song is the best thing I’ve heard all year. And possibly all of last year as well.
The title translates literally as ‘Ball-Raping Dog’, but is probably closer to ‘Pain-In-The-Ass Dog’ the way it’s used here. It sounds like it might be about you, or possibly me, and it’s the high point of an album with plenty of high points.
Las Kellies is made for the summer (here in southern USA, the asphalt is already nuclear and melting), and it’s absolutely glorious. What it lacks in substance and originality, it makes up for in fun. The band’s influences are blindingly obvious: ESG, Slits, Liliput, with a little bit of Shonen Knife thrown in. As pop, removed from any context, it’s thrilling. As revolution and art, however, Las Kellies is a bit of a disappointment.
It took Os Mutantes less than a year to recycle 60s psychedelia. It only took The Strokes 25 years to recycle that urban Modern Lovers sound, and now it’s taken Kellies 30 years to recycle ESG, Lilitput, the Slits, et al. This suggests all kinds of interesting things about time — that it may be in the process of stretching and expanding — but it doesn’t tell us much about Kellies.
See, there’s a difference between similarity and simulacrum, between being inspired and being influenced. And all too often Las Kellies comes down on the side of the latter. Their ESG cover sounds exactly like the original, which isn’t much of a surprise since much of Las Kellies also sounds like ESG. Their version of ‘Erase You’ is as redundant as that Campbell’s soup can painting I did last week. And of course they got Slits producer Dennis Bovell to mix the album.
Don’t get me wrong, the album is fantastic, but it falls well short of its historic precedents. Influences are a dangerous thing. Someday soon a band is going to put out an album that is influenced by a band who was influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Pop will eat itself, the anxiety of influence, etc, etc. I guess it’s profoundly strange to hear this music because while it’s inspired by the music of ESG, Slits, etc, it seems to violate its spirit. If all of Kellies’ heroes responded to punk by coming up with their own sound, then doesn’t Kellies’ response make them feel inherently conservative? Doesn’t it mean that they would have responded to punk by sounding like Sham 69? This feeling worries me. And (obviously) I’m unable to shake it.
This reverence towards the irreverent, making idols out of iconoclasts, is profoundly disturbing. And it’s probably why the album, at times, feels too sure of itself, too certain of where it wants to go. Las Kellies is an easy album to enjoy. It’s impossible not to like. But I’m having a hard time falling in love with it.
I’m not sure Las Kellies is in love with the modern world. And I think for a record in 2011 to be out-and-out thrilling, it has to at least try and take us somewhere we haven’t been before. I don’t doubt that Kellies lives in the modern world, but musically, I’m not even sure they know it exists. But, you know, so what? Some days, I’m not a big fan of it myself. I hear a lot of great things in this album; I just wish I heard more of the people in Kellies, cause I bet they’re really interesting.