Thursday, August 31, 2023

Spanish Love Songs - Bellyache

Anger and sadness are the emotional states that I am most drawn to in music. But of these two, if I was forced to pick a favorite, I would have to choose sadness. It is an emotion that we are all forced to grapple with during our lifetimes, so it is something that everyone can resonate with in some capacity.  Maybe it is the stage of my life that I am in, or my music snobbery, but happy music does not sound genuine to me. Fortunately, there is no shortage of sad music. The Los Angeles, California-based pop punk band Spanish Love Songs has been an ample supplier of sad music since I discovered them in 2018, shortly before the release of their second album, Schmaltz. Any devotee of melodic punk music will liken their sound to that of the early Menzingers' releases, back when the Menzingers still had some gruffness to them, and dwelt in unhappy places. 

Spanish Love Songs’ first album, Giant Sings the Blues, served as a means for the singer, Dylan Slocum, to explore self loathing, depression, and the pain of a failed marriage, whereas Schmaltz saw Slocum examining the ramifications of being in his 30s, miserably acknowledging that he has no plan to secure a happy future, as he continues playing house shows to a handful of people. Indeed, I was able to see them touring in support of Schmaltz at the now defunct Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA, playing to a crowd of about 15 people. Slocum’s songs point a critical eye towards his own faults, and how they help keep him in a perpetual state of disappointment and unhappiness. Slocum has a knack for vividly portraying scenes and emotions, making them feel very specific, while being nebulous enough to feel relatable. 

My favorite song from Schmaltz is called “Bellyache”. In the song, Slocum describes apathetically waking up another day in the arms of a stranger, realizing they are already another year older, and how nothing seems to matter: 

“Woke up far from home with a pattern on my face

Another night on the couch

TV on, I'm faced away

Another night in the AC

Trying to find some room to breathe in the arms of a stranger

But it is what it is and all this shit is worthless

Take the five to my name and I'll buy something frivolous”

Slocum goes on to acknowledge that his depression and apathy is not something that is easily fixed:

“Because I don't think I can fix this if I found God

And there's no drug in the world

That can possibly wash this off

Can't even go down to the river

And stick my fucking head in it”

Musically, the song starts with rhythmic and spare drumming with a single guitar strumming, allowing Slocum’s vocals and imagery to take center stage. After the first vocal passage, the full band comes in with a fist-pounding intensity. When Slocum returns to the line about God not being able to fix his sadness, almost all of the instrumentation falls away but the hum of guitar feedback. This leads to a gradual build of a single guitar chord strummed repeatedly, in unison with the pounding of the drums until the song reaches a tremendous climax where Slocum is practically yelling, voice nearly cracking. The emotional heft is undeniable.

I found Schmaltz at a difficult time of my life, and every time I listen to it, I am wisped back to those times and emotions. I am thankful that Spanish Loves Songs was able to create an album that helped me find some kinship in those times.

Spanish Love Songs have just released their 4th studio album, No Joy. Musically, it is a slight departure from the melodic punk of their first three albums, adding a lot more electronic elements. As the album title suggests, the band has not abandoned their pessimism, though rather than wallowing in negativity, the songs have an air of hopefulness to them. If you have not given the band a listen, you should remedy that. You cannot go wrong with any of their albums.

Buy Spanish Love Songs' music here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Spanis love songs. Just listened to Bellyache on my drive and it certainly made me feel something. What that feeling is, I've yet to identify specifically- but I think that's indicative of great art; eliciting emotions you're not familiar with.