*Para los lectores hispanohablantes que se encuentren con esto, la banda ha escrito amablemente una traducción al español de nuestra reseña, !Encuéntrela en la página 2!*
Sr. Carajo are a new band from Bogotá, Colombia not worried to smack an image and musical direction as technicolour as it is fun right into our unassuming faces. Sporting tunes self-described as “promesa neogranadina del pre-punk” (or “New Granada pre-punk promise”, as our reliable informant Google Translate tells us) and hot off a run around underground bars and music venues around their home country, their debut project, directly translating to 80.000 V Dragon Eye Morrison, sets about introducing that colourful new image in a 5-track EP.
Milo initially turned me onto these guys through IDLES’ Joe Talbot’s highlight of the self-titled opening track (bar the 80.000 V) on one of his isolation playlists, and it seems, aside from Mr Talbot, the majority of Sr. Carajo’s listeners come from Colombia or are dotted about in other parts of Latin America — if Spotify’s weekly listeners chart is anything to go by. And, when their music is as fun as this, it feels like something of an injustice that so few European ears have been turned onto them yet. It’s my job to mend that.
Having no idea what to expect, I give the track a try. First thing I find out about Sr. Carajo? These guys don’t mess around. A few seconds of mid-pace effect-laden guitar open proceedings with a foreboding sense of purpose, only to blissfully morph into a bubbly, delightfully bouncy rhythm — punchy drums and wah-wah bass included and well accounted for. Bubble quickly turns into crunch as the song properly kicks into gear around the 35-second mark, the boisterously delivered vocals and breaking guitars turning the bounce into leaping. We’ve got a good thing on our hands, here.
Fed-back vocal pops and meandering guitars become increasingly prominent amongst the track’s sprightly rhythms, and the song naturally lends itself to King Gizzard vibes. Not a bad thing at all – and not in a sense that’s derivative – and as track two (Croco-Bronx) takes the reigns, we get the warbling vocal effects in waves of big rock energy. In a musical sense, I get King Gizz vibes but chunkier, louder, and swapping Aussie surfer-turned sci-fi psychedelics with splashes of colour, blending warm dancing sounds you’d associate with smokey Colombian bars with kaleidoscopic punk rhythms delivered by a crispy punch akin to in•ter a•li•a At the Drive-In.
Bred from a cultural melting pot such as Bogotá, the congregation of sounds on Sr. Carajo’s debut EP is as expressive as the land itself. In a very real sense, the band’s self-description as “New Granada pre-punk promise” feels like a very fitting one, with the smooth smokey rhythms sliding through riffery and energy that’s like punk, but isn’t quite. The closing track, Palo de Ceniza, in particular, confidently sways with a rhythm consistent with traditional Cumbia music, only to gradually build into the colourful explosion of rambunctious sounds that is the crux of the aforementioned self-titled opening track — a cyclical moment that embodies the band’s seamless and ambitious blend of psychedelic punk-rock with classical neogranadina influences.
Only, I learn from my conversation with the band’s singer, that this self-description was a joke, and, such is the fun-loving nature of the band, it appears, that most everything on it is. And, especially to unbeknownst non-Spanish speaking listeners such as me, it’s quite the revelation when learning that the lyrical concept at the core of this EP is about none other than (to paraphrase the singer here) a mythological fantasy world that is split into a magical kingdom ruled by an entity in the form of a duck, and a non-magical kingdom ruled by the devil, or, the omnipotent and enigmatic Diablo. Turns out, with this debut release being a part of an artistic project Sr. Carajo aim to expand with time, it tells the almighty tale of a battle between five different characters, including the titular Ojo de Dragón Morrison and Diablo — rooted, in fact, in the videogame Diablo II. Music. To. My. Ears.
With such a brilliantly bash, playful concept at its core, it plays with an even bigger swagger, its lack of pretense refreshing against, as the singer quotes, a tiresome backdrop of “Colombian music talking about breakups“. Still, concept understood or not, while that closing track is probably the best on the EP, it never grows tired across its run-time. In ¿Usted Cree Que Yo Soy un Patético?, punk-rock meets sludge-doom metal with a fun-loving riff and trudging bassline lovingly lending itself to early Black Sabbath, whilst Diablo, Mefisto y Baal sounds almost like if Nonagon Infinity had a confusingly enjoyable encounter with the devil on a chugging train carriage.
At the end of the day, there’s little I can criticize here, and the main qualm I’ve got with Sr. Carajo’s debut project is that it’s only an EP. Throwing around gig flyers plastered with ducks, 80.000 V Ojo de Dragón Morrison is steeped in that irreverently eccentric concept, but as fun as it is, it feels like they’re only scratching the surface of their potential. I feel like, with time, if they incorporate some more varied and illustrative acoustic instrumentation, or perhaps add yet more heavy chunkiness into their music, it would work wonders with their tonal direction and could develop a musical texture which is as consistently rich as their expressive ambition — a tone, which, at the moment, remains rough around the edges in finding its feet. If these guys can expand what they’ve started here in this EP – a congregation of fun bops straddling moments of greatness – into full, expansive LP releases, we could have something amazing on our hands. But whilst I’m excited about their future releases, there’s only so good an EP can be as a standalone release, limited as a 20-minute run-time is when approaching an expansive concept.
Time will tell, then, whether or not Sr. Carajo turn lively potential into true genre-bending brilliance in full LP releases, but, for now, 80.000 V Ojo de Dragón Morrison is a gleefully vibrant showcase of tunes and exactly the kind of chunky bop we all need right now cooped up in our homes. As part of a budding underground scene in Colombia, their Latin American prospects look positive. Let’s get their European expedition off to a good start too, shall we?
best track: Palo de Ceniza