You’re in a desert. The sun glares down at you, scorchingly hot and unforgiving – somewhere in the distance, a lone tumbleweed rattles across the slowly undulating vista. You’re quite alone. This is the world Guadalupe Plata create and you, the listener, are thrown right into the midst of it. The Spanish trio’s eponymous fourth effort is an album with a vivid sense of time and place. Although the band’s country of origin has a few deserts of its own, this is an album that mostly calls to mind the glossy silver-screen cool of the great American deserts as portrayed in classic vintage Westerns.
Guadalupe Plata’s fourth album is a record of twanging tremelo’d guitar, rollicking drums and galloping bass; although it borrows heavily from a perhaps romanticised version of the Wild West that Hollywood has made sure we’ve all come to know, it’s done in a knowing way. The band offer a warm pastiche of the style rather than a wholesale imitation and therein lies the album’s best quality. Sung in Spanish, there’s a controlled, smooth calm to the vocal work here and a slick, well practised delivery in the music. The album has a pervading sense of cool about it; the strung-out tension and smoky atmosphere of ‘Navajazo’ wouldn’t be out of place in Kill Bill. The sinister electro-blues of ‘Violeta Parra (Qué He Sacado Con Quererte)’ oozes swamp-monster chic whilst the dark rockabilly of ‘Miedo’ feels like a 21st centry update on ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’. ‘Guadalupe Plata’ is an album that simultaneously stands as a stylish homage of sandstorm-blues and a genuinely great example of it – one that borrows from the genre’s cliches but does so with a knowing wink.
It’s clear that Guadalupe Plata place punchy immediacy on a pedestal above all else. Every song on their forth long-player is short, sharp and very to-the-point. With the record only just scraping half an hour, the band give themselves the bare minimum amount of time possible to get in, make a scene and get the hell out. It’s a tactic that may not stand up to close examination but, for what it is, it works. The group make no secret of their multicultural influences; although there’s a definite home-country flavouring here, they never go so far as to overtly reference the traditional music of Spain. Regardless, it hovers over the album in spirit, the deft touch of flamenco no overt influence but certainly present at some level. Likewise, it’s not hard to acertain their predominantly American influence; there’s a touch of kitschy late ’50s intrumental guitar groups to proceedings here – though they do rough things up rather more than that – and there’s even a nod to old school Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Chuck Berry-indebted guitar of ‘Demasiado’.
The galloping, gleeful romp of ‘Borracho’ betrays the influence of psychobilly punks The Cramps. Meanwhile, ‘Preso’ suggests a campy ’60s surf-band if they were taken from the coast and dropped in the middle of the Atacama desert. It’s very fun stuff; Guadalupe Plata are blantantly not a band who take themselves too seriously; and their lightheartedness and sense of humour is deeply engrained in the half serious, half loving-pastiche of their sound.
Guadalupe Plata are a band with a keen sense of style and while their electric, contemporary brand of blues isn’t wildly original, it’s a sound the band execute with a confidence and panache. On their fourth album, they coagulate a set of influences into a sound that has certainly been explored before, but – far from simple copyists – Guadalupe Plata offer an enjoyable take on desert-dazed rockabilly blues.