w/Fucking Champs, Drunk Horse
Thurs June 27, Graceland, $8.
I can spot a band that found its roots in Drive Like Jehu a mile away. So it was only a second before I was literally sprinting from the Breakroom's door to the front of the audience when I walked in and heard the then unknown-to-the-Northwest band Last of the Juanitas tearing the shit out of the air with wailing guitars and breakneck drumming. At that time, a good four years ago, Last of the Juanitas still resided in San Diego and featured Pitchfork/Jehu founder Rick Froberg (or Fork, Farr, or whatever surname he was going by in 1977). Since then the band has relocated to Portland (Froberg was a temp) and become the region's most electrifying mix of math and metal, an involuntarily fit-inducing explosion of heaviness topped off by the mellifluous vocals of one Lana Rebel.
Rebel's a shouter, for sure, but she's not a growling, ghastly gutter howler. Hers is a voice--not unlike that of Melt Banana's Yasuko--that punches up the lumbering weight of the music surrounding her with the contrasting sharp-sweetness of her roar. Rebel's vocals are what make the difference for me between loving and worshiping Last of the Juanitas. My admiration of the musicianship is a given; that kind of pounding is like a good hot bout of slammed-up-against-the-wall make out, and as far as I'm concerned that's the best kind. However, I'm a hard sell on female vocalists, and history proves that I can't stand for raggedness in place of actual talent. Rebel sings sparingly but succinctly, beautifully, and in just the right moments, making for an expertly tuned effect.
Drummer John Schier hits so heavy and smart it hurts, but oh! Is it good. Guitarist Maurice Giles wails, gyrates, and damn near harasses you into an aural tilt-a-whirl of sound while Rebel's tremulous bass pulls you in for keeps. Check out the albums--two on San Diego's Flapping Jet, Brangus and the incredible Hawaii, and the latest, Time's Up, out last March on Missoula's Wäntage USA label. If you like what you're reading here, you're going to love what Last of the Juanitas are playing there.