October 1, 2012

The Allah-Las & The Best Debut of 2012

1. The name: Combining "Allah," meaning "the God" in Arabic, with the pluralizing musical suffix "Las" elicits reactions that are somehow both incredibly specific and purposefully vague and mysterious. The band is at once a rebellious punk-rock provocateur; signifiers of an esoteric spirituality; and historically informed music buffs nodding to 1960s pop group The Shangri-Las, who's defining musical era is a point of origin for much of The Allah-Las' instrumental tones and stylings.

2. The anti-war song: Though "Busman's Holiday" channels the surface-level hue of Vietnam-era protest music, the geography here is focused on the deserts of the Middle East and the US homecoming of a contemporary soldier, who confides he's coming back to his "young wife as a different man." "Spent two year of my life in a foreign plane," sings Miles Michaud, "Came home to find my mind still stuck in sand. / Did things that I never thought I could do." Despite several US invasions over the past decade, anti-war songs are a surprisingly rare occurrence in modern rock 'n' roll. Thanks to Michaud's subtle lyricism and Pedrum Siadatian's slinky grooving guitar work, The Allah-Las' offering to the protest canon is also one of their very best tracks.

3. The details, the instrumentals: From the faded album cover of a young woman listening to the wash of waves through a seashell to the carefully curated collection of songs on the band's weekly Reverberation radio show, every piece of material The Allah-Las put forth into the world works around a very specific character and image. This a band that belabors over every detail. And that intensely purposeful and nuanced production style lends itself perfectly to the album format, specifically the arrangement, quality, and tone of recorded instruments. As charismatic and essential as Michaud's vocals are, The Allah-Las as a band are talented and musically dynamic enough to actually function as a purely instrumental group—a feat few other modern acts could pull off. And the proof is in the pudding: the melodies on instrumental numbers "Sacred Sands" and "Ela Navega" are as potent and compelling as anything on the band's debut.

4. The past, the nostalgia, the new: The music of The Allah-Las provides clear reference points to bands, places, genres, and even an era: It's The Animals and The Troggs; California coastlines and dark smokey watering holes off sparsely traveled roads; surf-, garage-, and psych-rock; the 1960s. But reference points here are really just starting points. The band's dark, gritty, hard-grooving musicality is uniquely their own and, even, uniquely modern. Despite, or in spite of, the technological innovations over the past few decades—the CD, the laptop, the iPod and tablet—we still very much live in a time where a portion of the populace prefers to hear music in its purest formats: directly through live instruments, off a reel of tape, or with a needle circling vinyl grooves. Not everyone wants to hear music conceived of and recorded solely on computers, and in that wholly modern situation, The Allah-Las are an analog reaction—and a weclome relief.

5. Debuting: There is nothing half-cocked on The Allah-Las eponymous debut. With only two 7-inches and a split 8-inch under their belts, the band has delivered a 12-track album that's as seamlessly fluid and captivating as it is consistent. With the way musical discovery works in the current internet fueled and dominated landscape, it's nearly impossible to arrive on the scene as a fully formed and functioning band with a clear and unique point of view. Yet The Allah-Las have done just that.

Buy Allah-Las vinyl from Innovative Leisure or from the band on tour. They play DC Tuesday.

The Allah-Las - "Don't You Forget It"
The Allah-Las - "Tell Me (What's On Your Mind)"

Allah-Las - Allah-Las


  1. Have you not listened to the Lace Curtains album yet?!?!

  2. written about Lace Curtains several times and own the vinyl. both albums are in my top 5 for the year. i guess I don't really think of LC as a debut, as Coomers has been around for a bit with Harlem. Allah-Las came out of nowhere last year.

    saying one is better than the other though is pretty arbitrary. they're both fantastic.

    1. what's the sound of Lace Curtains??

  3. I am totally in LOVE with the bitchin' sounds of the Allah Las! My new favorite band!