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Juanita y los Feos - Pesadilla Adulta

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Artist: Juanita y los Feos

Album: Pesadilla Adulta

Label: Munster

Review date: Mar. 16, 2012

When was the last pair of Chuck Taylors worn in an NBA game? I’m guessing sometime in the 1970s, probably at the early end, just about the same time rock ‘n’ roll and blue jeans crossed from American rebel signifier to world-standard leisurewear.

Jeans are still useful to ranchers. Converse high-tops, however, have long been eclipsed as a tool for hoops. And what about little rock ‘n’ roll bands that wear jeans and Chucks? Stuck between quaint and cool, they’ve got to be exceptional to live up to the history. On the cover of their latest, Spain’s Juanita y los Feos (and the Uglies) pose in geeky cutout photos, one member turned profile, with the distinctive Converse decal on the ankle of his canvas sneakers. A round of meat, cut from a supermarket sale poster hovers behind them, old New Wave irony. Never mind the huevos, it’s easy to know where this band is coming from. The style is circa 1980, clean-guitar punk that strives to be as sunny as it is snarky. Even if you can barely parse the Spanish, "Traja, Mastica, Vomita" goes down as easy as it chucks back up.

They’ve been at this since 2004, around the same time these same set of stylistic constraints took hold again in the U.S. around the Dirtnap Records stable. Cheap keyboard fizz there in the back, but the singer isn’t really that far forward, lest her sheiks upset the candy-crunch balance. That’s the thing about bands like this -- the rules that keep the music pure set up boundaries that original bands were crossing.

What keeps Pesadilla Adulta moving is the guitar work. This guy Fa is spring loaded, but he’s always a shiny spring. He makes every song a pogo, and they cover about as much territory as they could given the aforementioned border control. "Lobos" is a Siouxsie-like fall down the staircase, and elsewhere they get as big-sky as Gun Club and as tidy as Marshall Crenshaw. Is it enough to be truly exceptional? Nah, but it’s close, and the potential language barrier is helped along by the fact that Spanish might be an even better language for the fast stuff -- springy consonants and steady vowels hop right along with the rest of playing -- and the band is at its best when it’s fast and neurotic. Worth pulling your laces tight for this one.

By Ben Donnelly

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