Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love the blues. More to the point, how much I love Australian blues, and the bands that are absolutely killing it in terms of albums and EPs at the moment. One of these bands, and one that I’ve had on my list of favourites for a while now, is Sydney-based swamp blues rock ‘n’ rollers, La Mancha Negra – who are thankfully back in a big way with their first, self-titled LP.
As the opening bars of ‘Black Noon‘ ring out through your headphones, you are instantly transported to another place – a swampy showdown in the midst of cowboy country. It’s dirty, sweaty and whiskey-stained, but you can’t help but go along for the ride.
‘Can’t Find My Heart’ begins with a hollow drum beat, accompanied by a throbbing bass line, before frontman Akira Alvarez’s growling vocals join the scene. Lying somewhere between an early punk rock urgency, and a blues crooning – Alvarez’s vocal delivery is a refreshing take on the genre, and certainly gives the band a guttural edge that sets them apart from your typical blues band.
‘Dead Girl‘ provides a refreshed version of the bands ‘Dig All Night‘ track that appeared on their first EP. While the revamp of the track doesn’t seem to move me as much as the original, it doesn’t lack the infectious rhythm and ability to get you out of your chair and dance.
The bass-heavy ‘Black Leather Demon’ has an air of early Misfits surrounding it – providing a darker, more sinister style to the album – without losing the core ethos of the bands schtick. Not to be out-done in terms of the slickest track on the album, ‘Wild Dog’ magnifies the persona of the band ten-fold. The simplicity of the lyrics, the driving melody and haunting harp are ridiculously superb and testament to the bands sound versatility.
Military-esque drums stir your imagination once again for ‘Red Sun‘ – an instrumental interlude that is a definite nod to the classic cowboy/western era. However, once you begin to think the album is going to head a certain way, it switches gears and kicks the beat up to eleven with ‘Bad Liver Blues‘. Once again, the undeniable early punk delivery is impossible to ignore – with Alvarez’s vocals ranging between gritty fast-paced punk to howling blues.
‘Belanglo Twist‘ prompts you to move your feet once again, relying on an early rock ‘n’ roll melody to push the album forward, while ‘Green Eyes‘ opts for a subtle, western-inspired ballad that just screams “dusty cowboy bar”.
‘High Plains Drifter‘ reinforces the western vibes, and is possibly the standout track on the album. The whistling intro that leads to the quickened pace of the drums portrays some fantastic imagery of dusty plains and weathered leather boots, made all the more poignant by the vocals crooning, “…I’m a high plains drifter…”
As the album draws to a close, and the finale ‘Lonesome Whistle‘ begins its ride into the horizon – you have the definite feeling that the track is the final, brooding lament of the band. The melody and vocals ooze heartache and emotion that seems a far cry from the in-your-face boogie and growl that began the album, and provide a stirring end to an interesting journey.
Ultimately, this is an incredible album from La Mancha Negra. It draws on the heart and soul of the band perfectly, and captures their unique blend of early punk meets the blues without fault. While there is a definite shift in the band’s style since their first EP, it is certainly a sign of a band maturing, moving forward and developing into one of the scenes prominent frontrunners.
Certainly, this is an album that you need to hear.