It might be considered sacreligious in some Catholic regions of the world to line up a beer bottle next to a prayer candle like the members of Davila 666 do on the cover of Tan Bajo, but after listening to the album a few times over and grasping their general anarchic aesthetic, I’m convinced that they couldn’t care less. In fact, they probably revel in pissing Catholics off. That twisted album cover is ideal advertising for the product within — bare bones lo-fi garage pop to soundtrack your swigs of illegal Four Loko, direct from the ghettos of Puerto Rico–but it’s not entirely honest. In its heart, Tan Bajo wants to be a party record, and the opener “Obsesiano” definitely rocks and wiggles with Stooges swagger and bubblegum hooks, hissing and spitting at you in lo-fi while setting the table for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style dinner party that the record’s cover art warns you of. But the mostly tame proceedings that follow it are a let down from Tan Bajo’s strong opening promise.
What comes after “Obsesiano” is a guided tour through Davila 666’s most prominent musical influences. You’ve got the mussed-up girl-group Spector-ism of “Yo Seria Otro,” the pre-punk blitz of “Robacuna” and the mellow Psychocandy screech of “Si Me Ves.” But all of these songs are caught up in cutting out the sounds of past heroes with an X-Acto knife rather than having fun being a stupid rock record, which is what Tan Bajo should be. The seven-piece group cites everyone from the Dead Boys to Iggy Pop to Otis Redding as influences, but rather than sprinkling on its influences — some Radio Birdman here, a little Elvis Costello there (the “Pump It Up” drums on “Yo Seria Otro” are obvious but not unwelcome) — evenly through the record, many of the tracks seem like hermetically sealed idol worships of a specific artist.
Listening to Tan Bajo, you get a sense of the type of band Davila 666 has the potential to be — “Obsesiano” and the unassailably killer “Putitas” stand up as titans of supercharged, irresponsible garage vulgarity — but Tan Bajo as an album is clumsily disjointed and scatterbrained. The momentum of the record sputters constantly instead of smoothly escalating or constantly reveling being in the red, trying to make up for a lack of cohesion with studio gimmicks like tearing off the ends of songs with awkward tape cuts. In that vein, “Ratata” sticks out like a sore thumb from the album by pushing everything in the mix into the red, a la Iggy’s ‘97 Raw Power redux, while almost everything that proceeded sounded like it was filtered through a blown out revolutionary bullhorn and played through a hand-cranked Victrola.
It’s unfortunate that Tan Bajo is so over produced by trying to be so under produced, but this is a document of a band experimenting with the hurdle of translating their famous live shows into a studio setting and over-calculating their sound in the process. I wanted to cut loose and rage to Tan Bajo, but Davila only relaxed their guard for about ten minutes sum total here, while spending most of the record forcing themselves into the sound molds of their idols. Please let your hair down guys, we want to party with you.