Llama Farmers – El Toppo

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

I will admit to being unconvinced by recent Llama Farmers single SNOW WHITE. Maybe it was the seen-it-a-hundred-times-before boy-girl harmonising over walls of guitar noise; maybe it was the irritatingly limp B-sides; or maybe just their name. Unfair, I know, but raucous lo-fi guitar bands are ten a penny round here.

Well, I am happy to inform you that their second long-player, EL TOPPO, while winning no prizes for originality, will at least blow away some of those tired old indie cobwebs. Comprising the single SAME SONG, as well as the aforementioned SNOW WHITE, EL TOPPO offers eleven straight-to-the-bone, guitar-drenched ditties.

While the harmonising is probably intended to contrast with the noise, on tracks like POSTCARDS & MOONROCK the Farmers can come across a bit Carpenters. The rest of the time, however, Jenni Simpson keeps to playing bass, underpinning the racket à la Kim Deal. Actually, the mighty Pixies are not a bad point of reference, as Bernie Simpson sounds not unlike Black Francis at times (the effects-laden FEATHERS, for instance).

And like the corpulent Pixie, Bernie’s lyrics are hardly insightful. Lines like “We pigged out on doggy fudge just for fun / thought you had it made and all the drugs that you take are a blast” may be the height of lucidity for him, but I’m afraid I’m none the wiser.

There is an air of melancholy about all the songs here, especially the heart-wrenchingly sad Bunnymen-like closer MOVIE, but when the band whip up an axe storm the size of EAR THE C, you can forgive them for bringing a lump to your throat.

If anyone remembers Irish band Whipping Boy, much of this album sounds quite similar. At times the jagged, angular guitars even have a hint of Joy Division about them. You can’t fault that.

4 stars