Warning signs go off when I hear of a new act citing one of my all-time favorite bands — the Jesus and Mary Chain — as an influence. What the Jesus and Mary Chain did was notoriously “easy”: create simple pop melodies that were at times barely distinguishable beneath a distortion pedal set somewhere between bee sting and alligator bite. Hell, the band didn’t even really have a drummer. It was about rock, Jesus, death, drugs, sunglasses, sex and hair, and not necessarily in that order. This is why copycat bands such as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are difficult to take seriously; you might be able to make your fingers move to achieve the above sound, but you can’t paint attitude by numbers. The Jesus and Mary Chain did what the Jesus and Mary Chain did because that’s what the Jesus and Mary Chain does; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club does what Black Rebel Motorcycle Club does because that’s what the Jesus and Mary Chain did.
Enter the Diableros, a Toronto-based sextet that formed initially to cover Jesus and Mary Chain tunes. The band’s independently produced full-length debut, You Can’t Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts (not yet slated for Stateside release), is interested in distortion and has the loud pop part figured out, but the members have effectively incorporated their own personalities. The Diableros feature two organists — or, more specifically, one organist and one farfisist — and lead singer Pete Carmichael’s distorted, maniacal vocals are as intensely serious as the subject matter calls for. He metes out lines about sipping tea, taking walks and eating rice cakes with a diabler-ical fury.
This is as far away from guitar-based rock as you’ll get from a band that features two guitarists. The Diableros use the guitar as a tone-setter rather than a centerpiece. Guitarist Ian Jackson slowly walks in album-closing ballad “Golden Gates” only to bow out to the drum, fuzz bass and organ blast — or disappear completely, as he does on “Smash the Clock.” The same is true of “No Weight”; the Diableros rarely employ a distortion pedal but achieve a feedback feel from the fugue of distorted vocals, bass, drums and keys from every direction. It’s pop with the volume turned way up. You’ll catch the occasional Stones lick (“Tropical Pets”), but for the most part the bass and organs are too loud and fast, the mighty guitar reduced here to a garnish on a keyboard casserole.
The members of the Jesus and Mary Chain were so rock ‘n’ roll that they didn’t even care to build on their one good idea, and really there was no need to. The Diableros understand this and aren’t taking fuzz pop/shoe-gaze far; they’re just twisting it hard enough to get a little yelp.
The Diableros Web site (audio/video)
The Diableros on Baudelaire’s Web site