Review: Antarctigo Vespucci- Leavin’ La Vida Loca

Posted: March 22, 2016 in Reviews

Leavin' La Vida Loca cover art

I kind of think that the music I listen to is, in general, not that varied. Most likely, I am listening to just another shitty pop-punk record that no-one cares about. However, I realised that the two records I have been listening to the most recently are quite obviously very different stylistically and musically, but also in tone. I can go from the sweet, care-free, youthful pop-punk harmonies of Jabber to the self-deprecating, self-analytical, mostly deadly serious (but still fun) indie rock (ish) of Antartigo Vespucci with barely a blink of an eye (ear). The latter do not sing about high-school crushes and waiting on a sweetheart, but painful, self-critical regret. Standout lyrics from the latest record include: “Is it all my fault or just most of it? My potential turns to worthlessness and you try to pull me out of it, but the weight just starts to suck you in”.

Antarctigo Vespucci are, if you didn’t know, Chris Farren from Fake Problems and Jeff Rosenstock from Bomb the Music Industry! and, well, Jeff Rosenstock. I hadn’t checked the band out properly until the release of their first full-length (following a couple of EPs). Of course, I’m late to the party, but I don’t mind when I know I will be staying at the party until 6am anyway. These two have really created something special here.  How to describe it? It is broadly ‘indie-rock’ I guess, but there are elements of all sorts going on: from folk to country to pop-punk.

I love how varied this record is and how quickly Antarctigo can shift it up a gear. After the laidback first couple of tracks (lets call them: mid-tempo, contemplative indie), they unleash the album highlight: “Save Me From Myself”. This is like Pinkerton reinvigorated for the lethargic millenials, with Jake Bugg on vocals. It’s fast-paced, intense and synth-y, with kooky, charming lyrics. It’s kind of out-of-place on the album, but you don’t care when it’s that good. This is pure ‘apathy and exhaustion’, nihilism and ‘fuck it’ plugged, but without the narcissistic tendencies of the Wavves ilk (to be fair, they have some good songs). There’s a keen sense of self-awareness here from AV that sets them apart from the usual ‘generation X/Y/whatever’ bollocks:

“I took the lid off the poppers,
And I inhaled until I could not see straight.
Fell on my back on the futon,
Oh I know this can’t be good for my brain”

To open the song with those lines is pretty fucking awesome. This is basically a song about a guy chilling and worrying while chilling, too. All he does is nothing. He wants to get out of the situation, but he can’t, no matter how hard he tries. There’s an unnerving honesty embedded in this song, which is great to hear (especially when it reaches such a melodically euphoric crescendo such as in this song):

“I’m obsessing again,
I’m turning into my friends,
Please don’t let them know.
Woah oh oh
I’m in the corner waiting,
Because I’m boring baby.
Please don’t let them know.”

And what follows such Weezer-inspired joy? Well, a number of things and AV endeavour to keep things interesting. “Losing my Mind” is country-rock at its finest, with the protagonist doing just what the title suggests and ‘sitting on the bed and staring’, wondering what his significant other is really thinking. Meanwhile, the other super-energetic track on Leavin’ La Vida Loca is “Hooray for Me”, a tongue-in cheek song about being alright, “as long as someone else” takes care of you. It links in with the previously mentioned apathy and lethargic attitude: “I’ve got a lot of big decisions that I am never going to make.” I love the way it builds to the chorus, and the release of energy that subsequently ensues. It kind reminds me of Alkaline Trio in that way (although it’s not dark or moody in any way) and there’s certainly a crunch-y pop-punk element to this hit.

The latter section of the album is slightly less ‘fun’ and more self-critical I guess. Partly, this album is about no being able to accept yourself, no matter what the present situation may be, with the past engulfing you. The key line which sums this up is “Bad memory, when I close my eyes it’s the only thing I see. Hold on to me like a parasite or an endless fever dream.” (“No Bad Memories”). While that song is a country rock ditty to make you dance, “Crashing Waves” is indie miserabilia through and through. Its tone is not seen elsewhere on the album and kind of reminds me of both Manic Street Preachers and the Hold Steady. Final track “I See Failure” reinvigorates things and picks up the tempo. This brings us back to the ol’ bad memories. It’s not just the weight of his memories which is dragging him down but the weight of himself. Lyrically, I think this is the most intelligent on the record and the chorus probably sums that up well:

“Or did I stay too long in your arms and the safety of your touch? Have I lost the will to fight these devils off? / Did I stay too long in your arms sheltered from the storm? Am I too detached from what you saved me from?”

Clearly, he is talking about his other half. She has ‘saved him’ (from himself?) but has she really saved him? Isn’t he still the same underneath? Don’t the old inadequacies remain? The implication here is that a significant other can perhaps paper over the cracks of our true selves. The protagonist here is now less equipped to fight off the devils than he was before. “I See Failure” is the perfect, self-analytical, anxiety-inducing way to end this record. Cathartic and similatenously melodically-pleasing, it sums up the whole feeling of Leavin’ La Vida Loca. I guess the question is, do you ever really leave la vida loca?

DB

Check it out here: https://antarctigovespucci.bandcamp.com/album/leavin-la-vida-loca

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