Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Album Review: Los Planetas

Los Planetas: 'Una Opera Egipcia' (Sony Records)

1. La Llave De Oro
2. Una Corona De Estrellas
3. Soy Un Pobre Granaino (Colombiana)
4. Siete Faroles
5. No Sé Como Te Atreves
6. Señora De Las Alturas
7. La Veleta
8. Romance De Juan Osuna
9. Atravesando Los Montes
10. Virgen De La Soledad
11. La Pastora Divina
12. Los Poetas

If you don't live in Spain, there's a good chance you're wondering "Who?" Don't stop reading.
Hailing from Granada, Los Planetas have long since been considered the kings of the Spanish indie scene (on a personal level, they rank in my top 10 bands of all time) and the expectation generated by their releases parallels that of any top British or US act.
15 years on, lead singer J and Co. have once again managed to surpass that expectation and produce another album, their eighth, which can only serve to convince their legion of unconditional fans that they are from another dimension.

A sign of a truly great band is their ability to develop their sound each album, exploring new sounds and this is what Los Planetas are masters of. Their Manchester-sound, mixed with the Andalucian sun had always produced stunning results (try debut album Super 8 or Una Semana En El Motor De Un Autobus) but that wasn't enough, they needed to try something new.

There were clear signs of the shift on previous album La Leyenda Del Espacio (2007) when the flamenco influence - only natural for a band from Granada - started to 'invade' the characteristic sound of distorted guitars, psychodelic samples and intricate, often twisted lyrics. The more recent EP Cuatro Palos (taking its name from the four main styles of flamenco) was a clear declaration that this was not a whim and Una Opera Egipcia has developed that idea even further, signalling the culmination of the Planeta-flamenco fusion.

Any doubts (if there were any), however, that Los Planetas were going to go all 'Gypsy Kings' are dramatically dispelled on the opening track 'La Llave De Oro', a lyric-free intro to get you in the right frame of mind. 'Una Corona De Estrellas' and, in particular, 'Soy Un Pobre Granaino' complete with classic Planetesque keyboard introduction are clear signs that J and crew haven't forgotten their roots, while 'Siete Farolas' shows the first real signs of the flamenco influence.

The tempo is reduced and things get a little more introspective with 'No Sé Como Te Atreves' (aided by a more than notable collaboration from rising star La Bien Querida) followed by the exquisite 'Señora De Las Alturas', one of the highlights of the album and destined to become another crowd favourite -  a sublime 'shoegazing' moment.

"si te quedas conmigo
para que pueda contarte
lo mucho que te necesito
aunque creo que ya lo sabes
voy a volver a decirlo
que te quiero mas que nadie
que te sigo queriendo lo mismo
para que alivies mis males
señora de mis abismos"

The pseudo-poetic 'La Veleta' (again with La Bien Querida') is dwarfed by 'Romance De Juan Osuna', possibly Los Planetas' clearest example of their newly created sound. Thundering guitars, with the distorsion pedal doing overtime again and Jotas' obsession with poppies is clearly evident once more.      

Content, and with the freedom to do whatever they feel like, without really worrying what anyone thinks, Los Planetas indulge themselves in some deeper Flamenco experimentation during the run-in, with the hypnotic 'Virgen De La Soledad' and the extravagant 'La Pastora Divina' (accompanied by the 'authentic' Flamenco legend, Enrique Morente) testing the listeners' mettle, but ultimately coming up trumps. Closing track 'Los Poetas' typically brings the album to an agonising close on what, quite clearly is a masterpiece.

In flamenco circles, the term "Opera Egipcia" ("Egyptian Opera") is used to suggest that an artist has reached the pinnacle, so the question begs "will they continue?" My partner (compañera "de viaje" throughout Los Planetas' career) suggests this will be their finale and she could be right (she usually is!). I still have my doubts, but for now I'm not going to worry about it too much - I'm too busy enjoying the moment.


NME-Europe rating: 9/10
Top Track: 'Señora De Las Alturas'

Watch a vid...

Last 5 NME-Europe reviews:
Cybiont: 'Angels And Demons'
Two Door Cinema Club: 'Tourist History'
The Soft Pack: 'The Soft Pack'
Los Punsetes: 'LP2'
The Courteeners: 'Falcon'

Read all NME-Europe reviews


Comunicación Viciada said...

Great review!
We think Los Planetas are one of the most important indie bands in Spain.

Nick C said...

Thanks, glad you liked it!

¡Vivan Los Planetas!

Juan Francisco Hernández said...

Gran post Nick. Totalmente de acuerdo, aunque a algunos no le gusta demasiado esta deriva hacia el flamenco, debo decir que pensaba que se "les iba a ir más la olla", han hecho una fusión verdaderamente especial y propia de ellos.
A los Planetas o los amas o los odias, no tienen punto medio.
Por cierto, en la traducción al Spanish tus iniciales NC se convierten en... "Carolina del Norte", jeje.