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Rey Pila

Rey Pila

They’re signed to Julian Casablancas’ label, they’re on tour with Albert Hammond Jr, and they sound like an ’80s synth-rock Strokes.

Hometown: Mexico City.

The lineup: Diego Solorzano, Rodrigo Blanco and Andres Velasco.

The background: Rey Pila means “King Battery” in Spanish. You will learn little about the band Rey Pila from this. They are from Mexico, now based in New York, but sing in English, although they do have a song called Sordo which means “deaf”. Not that you’ll want to be (deaf) on hearing their music, because it’s really good. Good despite the fact that, in places, it recalls bad – dodgy, cartoonishly reductive – 80s bands wielding synths. At one point we were reminded of the Thompson Twins. Funnily enough, we didn’t run screaming for the door. No, we thought: how interesting that, wrenched from its original context, a sound can radically improve and lose its signifiers of un-cool. Then we ran screaming for the door.

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Rey Pila was the solo project of one Diego Solorzano but now it’s a band signed to Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records – also on a Strokes tip, they’re currently in the UK on the road with Cult labelmate Albert Hammond, Jr. They have toured with Interpol, Muse, TV on the Radio, and Ariel Pink but really they’d make more sense on one of those Here and Now package jobs. They have just been putting the finishing touches to an album (their second – their first comprised “acid rock and Beatlesesque jams”, according to Vice magazine) with producer Chris Coady (Beach House, Smith Westerns, Wavves). They have described it as “a synth-laden, guitar-driven collection of pop gems”, but we’ll be the judges of that. The first release from the album is the single Alexander, whose sleeve art was apparently inspired by the poster for movie Halloween III. And do you know what? It is a synth-laden, guitar-driven gem. With that machine pulse and Solorzano’s low grumbling voice, it’s like Billy Idol’s White Wedding given a goth makeover by Sisters of Mercy. It’s new wave synth-rock of the sort that made it big in the States but never quite happened over here, reminiscent of groups (often British) such as Modern English who made more sense to American audiences, sometimes in John Hughes movies. That voice is so mannered and self-preening it comes with its own makeup artist. Imagine the Strokes if they’d recorded an album with Martin Rushent on the back of his worldwide success with Dare, in 1983. The B-side is a cover version of Chris De Burgh’s Lady In Red, recorded at DFA studios. Now, we hate it when people randomly slag off MOR hits just because they’re MOR and were hits, but this really has always been a loathsome song, one deserving of the description “acrid torpor”. But in Rey Pila’s hands it’s considerably less abhorrent. It’s an ambient synthscape, like Ultravox’s Vienna only less pompous, with an Autotuned chorus straight out of a Daft Punk ballad. The third track on their SoundCloud is Grenades, which is as tritely addictive – and we’re addicted to a lot of trite music, who isn’t? – as Thompson Twins’ In the Name of Love. Maybe that explains the battery thing – they draw their energy from the banal. Whatever works, as another New Yorker said.

2020 © Jamie Lindsay Music