Words by Emily Hollitt
TW: This article contains themes of mental health, death and suicide. Read/ listen at your own discretion.
“I pitched this album to the band as a group of love songs.” Proclaimed Spanish Love Songs’ vocalist / guitarist Dylan Slocum. For a band not known for their uplifting, motivational tracks, Slocum was laughed at by the rest of the band. “I imagine people thinking, ‘If they were pissed off before the pandemic, imagine how angry the songs are going to be now!’” says Dylan on the record. “I can yell at the world for being awful, but that’s not going to change anything when the people I love are dying. It’s an album about finding happiness in what you have and your current moment. It might be your best moment, or it might not, but you have to find joy in it”.
‘No Joy’, the latest offering from LA Rock Outfit Spanish Love Songs, does exactly that; use a lens of cynicism to shed light into our darkest times.
Lifer opens the record on a seemingly upbeat tone, directly contrasting the lyrics of the track. They’re deeply personal, describing a loved one in detail; “Listening to deathbed confessionals. And to find someone more dependable, instead of me and my guillotine. Said you thought I was a lifer too.”. “You apologise to me because you can’t help it… you’re not sure why when you leave the house you circle to block to cry” he sings, depicting the way they deal with intense emotions. “Don’t write yourself out of the equation” he sings to end each chorus. “I ask if you’re okay, with your head wide open. You smile for my benefit, ‘cause I know you aren’t.” “It’s so hard to love when you’re dying in an empty room” repeats Dylan in each chorus of Pendulum. The song describes how regardless of how hard we cling to company; we always die alone. “But we love who we love… and we want what we want… wait for that pendulum to go”. The pendulum represents his emotions swinging in the other direction; transforming his fear for what he can lose into gratitude for what he has.
Shimmering synths reminiscent of indie pop music from the early 2000’s opens Haunted. “The ghost became a metaphor for everything you just carry around that no one can hear or see” says Slocum on the history of the track. Moving to Nashville with his bandmate and wife Meredith Van Woert, he depicts how the creaks in their new home became something deeper. “You’re not haunted, you just miss everything” he sings in every chorus, depicting the ghosts we carry with us as we get older, good and bad ghosts and often romanticised memories of easier times. “You’re not haunted, it’s just the devil in your skin. It’ll be this bleak forever, but it’s a way to live. You’re not alone, you just miss everything. And when you’re feeling like a ghost, would you come and haunt me? Please, come and haunt me.”
Crunchy drums and over-driven bass open Clean-Up Crew. Dylan’s vocals are heavily reverberated, and his delivery is pointed, reminiscent of Faker. “You had me there for a second. I start to believe that we could make it”. The track describes the impermanence of their career, how every period can feel over just as quickly as it started. “It’s just like life to come teach me a lesson, but every time I swear, I forget it”. Written as an ‘ode to life’s could-have-beens’, the song ponders if he could handle a quiet life and works as a reminder of how much he loves the chaos and hope of chasing his dreams.
A sparkling synth and gentle, finger-picked acoustic guitar opens Middle of Nine, quickly changing the pace of the songs heard prior. “In the end we’re all blaming someone… conspiracies melting your brain, whatever it takes for you to feel safe”. “The coughing, the hate, the fear. They won’t let you go”; this track describes the things people clung to during the pandemic; trying to find meaning and control during a period where control was impossible, and nothing was certain. A simple, overdriven, ‘80s-style guitar plays a simple, repeated riff, supported by an accompanying, high-pitched piano which mirrors the melody. This creates a sound reminiscent of The National. An instantly infectious guitar melody opens Marvel, immediately captivating the listener. The lyrics are like opening track Marvel, closely depicting the behaviours and coping mechanisms of a loved one. “Stay alive out of spite” he finishes in every chorus, a cynical look at living through a bad mental health day. The track is an album highlight; a mantra to help you holding on when times are tough.
“May 5th, wake up in an ambulance, holding my brother’s hand, asking him what went wrong.” He opens in I’m Gonna Miss Everything; “The fire in my mind the first time I felt crazy. Still playing that fine. I can’t remember the look in your face when I told you I might wanna die” he sings, circling back to lyrics in Middle of Nine. The track is another reminder to hold on to life; if you let your mental health win, you’re going to miss all the best parts of life. “Every person I’ve been, or I am gonna be, I’m gonna miss everything” he repeats as the song fades out amongst a wall of guitars and drums. “If everyone’s gone in rapture. Why don’t you want to get better?” asks Dylan in Rapture Chaser. “The pain is everywhere if you go looking… why are you searching?”. The song is a reminder that is our responsibility alone to get ourselves out of slumps; if you go looking for pain, you’re bound to find it.
Crunchy electric guitar opens Mutable. The lyrics are descriptive and simple. The drums are driving, moving the song forward at an even pace. The lyrics are sparse, focusing more on the sombre feeling of the song, rather than intense storytelling, allowing each phrase to sit with the listener. “I wish I could live my life until I got it right. I always swear I’ll change, and then I act surprised. I’ll probably sort myself out when I’m out of time.”. He repeats until the song’s end, lead out by twinkling synths and repetitive instrumentation, growing into chaos before fading into nothing.
Here You Are follows, immediately changing the pace. Bright acoustic guitar plays to support Dylan’s high-energy vocals. The bassline is pushed forward in the mix, adding a fun countermelody to support the overall tone of the track. “Go out like a spark, put your trauma on me. Lie down in the dark, tell me it won’t hurt when it comes.” He sings in each chorus. “I’ll go out like a spark. My trauma and me. Lie down in the dark, tell me it won’t hurt when it comes” he sings in the final chorus, transforming the songs meaning.
Finger-picked guitar opens Exit Bags as Slocum sings “I’m not sure when I stopped reading science fiction. Stopped believing in the world to come.” He sings about growing older and losing hope. “You’re not sure you feel it anymore” sings Dylan, before a lo-fi, muted electronic beat is introduced. The song reads as a message to the inner child; embracing your past self in order to move forward. Growing older sucks, but the trauma of your past is important in shaping who you are in the present. “I’m not sure when this turned into science fiction. Blessed to wake up at the world’s end. A fitting joke that I found something to love. But you turned to salt in my hands”. The themes of the world’s end continue with final track Re-Emerging Signs of the Apocalypse. Very 2000’s synths, reminiscent of The Wombats, open the track as he sings “I watched the empire fall as I waited for a tyre rotation… it’s just a bit mundane”. “I’m a part of the equation” he sings at the end of the chorus, tying back to the final lyrics in each chorus of opening track Lifer. He references the pendulum, bringing back old ideas. “It has a balance in the end, and we’re a part of the equation”. He repeats this lyric as the album closes, reminding the listener that no matter how tough times are, you are a part of something. For an album titled ‘No Joy’, that’s a pretty damn positive message.
Remaining Tour Dates:
Friday 25 August – Stay Gold, Melbourne *SOLD OUT*
Saturday 26 August – Stay Gold, Melbourne
With thanks to Dallas Does PR