Repo Fam is the latest solo project of Michelle La Pena who could be relied upon to go all manner of ballistc crazy behind the keyboards for avant garde Washington DC punk rock band the Foul Swoops. The band are a beguiling mix of weird and unhinged and La Pena more than held her own in such aberrant company.
The album opener, Sawdust, is 36 seconds of screeching noise that ensures that a definitive tone is set that announces to the world that a very different aural affair is about to be experienced. Such difference is presented by an indulgence in two musical templates.
The primary is aesthetic is seen in tracks such as Henry Darger, Riggins Rigs and the true stand out of the album, 1928 (see below). These tracks present a beguiling discordant jangled riffs from guitars with such slack strings that they sound like some sort of electric 'uber banjo'. As much as this may sound like an overt criticism, it certainly is not meant as such as the tinny discord of these tracks juxtaposed with the half deadpan / half twee La Pena vocals (reminds me of Alison Statton from the New Marble Giants but an octave lower) makes for one of the most mesmerizing and undeniably original sounds of 2018 what has already been a great year for off-kilter jangle-pop.
Despite the general air of laconic unusual tracks such as the Lemon Cigarettes (or at least the second half of the track) and the superlative lead single Skip to My Lou (see below) sees the artist sometimes relaxes such restraints and drifts near to, rather than wholeheartedly engage with, a more insistent sound that hints towards rock guitars and the evolution of the general sparsity of the hitherto ritualistic drum work into something decidedly more aggressive. It is not quite in the same league Foul Swoops angst, but hints at a direction she is more than capable of fully exploiting in subsequent releases.
Skip to My Lou
Several bands have dipped a toe into the pool of weird jangle-pop this year...in this album REPO FAM dives right in and rarely needs to take a breath.