I first came across this band on one of those sprawling Progstravaganza compilations, which only goes to show that wading knee-deep through bedroom recordings that for the most part should have stayed there is occasionally worth the slog, for this bunch of Spanish loons who go under the banner Cheeto’s Magazine are FUN with a capital F, U, and N. One look at their publicity photo on the Progstravaganza site confirms this, for they actually seem to be enjoying themselves. Not for the Cheetos lurking about in alleys dressed in black and scowling at the lens with the weight of the world on their shoulders, but BRIGHT COLOURS, and SMILING, and sundry larking about. I would also hazard a guess that they are not covered in excessive and ill-advised tattoos that come their middle age will see them joining lengthening queues at the laser parlour to have said by then ugly bruise-like marks removed. And that’s only the women. I’m telling you, put your money in tattoo removal, it’s the next boom industry. Sometimes nowadays it seems as if there is a rule against enjoying oneself in this dark corner of the musical world we inhabit. If there is then the Cheetos are paying no attention.
Opening your debut album with a twenty five minute epic shows cojones in vast quantities but luckily these guys have the chops to pull it off. A sprawling schizoid mess of a song that works when all logic dictates it shouldn’t, attempting to describe this monster is not easy. Let’s go back to my brief description on the DPRP Something For The Weekend blog; there are elements of The Beatles, Kansas, Gentle Giant, and lots of Zappa in the mix. I can even hear Queen at their most pompous in here too.
The grand symphonic sweep of keyboards, edgy Zappa-esque jazz workouts, soaring guitar solos, classical piano interludes, daft comedy voices and epic choruses all get chucked in the mix. This is the sort of song that while it will not have you singing it whole and unaccompanied in the shower, it will leave sections in your head on a loop. It is quite bonkers, and works mainly because it is FUN, something that is anathema (heheh) to far too many unsmiling proggy types these days, as I said, at length!
Following Nova America was never going to be easy, and to be fair had the rest of the album been a succession of wince-inducing scatological humour set to nursery rhyme melodies it wouldn’t have mattered for Boiling Fowls is worth the entry price of Nova America alone. Considering the download version is a “Name your price” on Bandcamp (see link below), that entry price is a little as you want it to be.
The Driver and The Cat kicks off what might be termed “the second side” with a variant of bizarre prog-pop full of deft production trickery and big choruses. The frothy but intricate nature of these shorter tunes has something in common with the magpie nature of Mats/Morgan, and uses a similar highly intelligent approach to crafting clever pop music.
An oblique Eno-esque lyric graces Teddy Bears that epitomises the songcraft of this highly talented assemblage with a very “earworm” kind of tune. This is one I can see myself singing in the shower, no problem; my good lady might wonder why I’m belting out “See those teddy bears running for their lives”, but as she’s familiar with the odd stuff I listen to, perhaps not!
The band’s sense of humour shines through, thankfully not in scatological humour, but in daft but still complex musical interludes, the beginning of Octopus Soup being a fine example. Labyrinthine as its title suggest, the long instrumental introduction goes through myriad changes in melody and volume and time signature, and is something of a joy to behold. With the introduction of the vocals the piece morphs into a mini rock-opera. There is as much going on in these near seven minutes as some bands manage in entire albums.
Everything about this band and their album is BIG, from the production to the arrangements, and of course the unbounded ambition. For the most part they pull it off, too. Fat Frosties is an older song and served as something of a template for the craziness that followed. The song features a frantic disembodied voice shouting through the wrong end of a megaphone about who knows what. Frankly it doesn’t matter. Soon a chunky riff speeds up as the song charges to the bridge for a rare reflective moment before a slow grandiose keyboard climb up to rejoin the earlier madness. Marvellous stuff!
Unable to resist the lure of another epic, Fat Frosties crossfades into Naughty Boy, and it is not long before we are off on another full-on high energy (but not heavy) prog trip. This band must be great live, and you can get some idea of that from the video above. Leaders Esteban Navarro and Manel Orella are forces of nature and propel the music along with their manic energy. Just watching that video is exhausting!
After what has gone before, the fact that the last song features auto-tuned vocals is almost forgivable… almost.
Since the recording of the album, drummer Joan Montané has left the band, to be replaced by Eric Rovira, and another new member, Matias Lizana has joined, adding yet more keyboards. Where this takes this intriguing and fairly unique band is anyone’s guess, but I will certainly be on the lookout for more releases.
01. Nova America (25:24)
02. The Driver And The Cat (2:29)
03. Volcano Burger (4:50)
04. Teddy Bears (5:16)
05. Four Guitars (3:08)
06. Octopus Soup (6:52)
07. Fat Frosties (6:14)
08. Naughty Boy (7:10)
09. Driver French (2:48)
Total Time – 64:16
Esteban Navarro – Lead Vocals & Keyboards
Manel Orella – Guitars & Keyboards
Dídac García – Bass
Joan Montané – Drums
Record Label: N/A
Year Of Release: 2014