Sometimes I like thoughtful reflective music; other times I like music that makes me feel like I’m driving a cool car fast along a deserted beach with the sun and wind in my hair. This spring take Calva Louise’s debut album Rhinoceros with your key fob, sunnies and sun cream. With Calva Louise’s album Rhinoceros you get both reflection largely in the lyrics and hedonism largely in the music.
Having Calva Louise on my personal playlist for the best part of 12 months means that half of the songs on this breezy 30 minutes of album are already familiar favourites. It’s often the way that the first album is the chance for new fans to catch up with what’s gone before.
In this case who could possibly begrudge hearing that welcoming riff and intro to the banging and fuzzy I Heard A Cry a few more hundred times? Matched with fellow early single, the emphatic I’m Gonna Do Well, as the first two album tracks, you already pretty much get what this band is about. The lead vocals of Venezuelan Jess Allanic is pure bubblegum punk fun, while the bass of Alizon Taho and drums of Ben Parker are the deft and rocking powerhouse giving the band its jaunty, cheeky edge.
The less familiar songs are also gems. Largely Spanish language No Hay has an irritatingly catchy beat to it and the vibe almost reminds me of that string of perfect pop/new wave songs released by Madness in the early 1980’s. There is a feel for Wolf Alice lite with this track, and it’s easy to imagine this band capturing the hearts of the masses. Wondertale is also an incredibly likeable song with a very soft and almost coquettish style, which gives something of a Debbie Harry/ Blondie Dreaming vibe before bounding back into heavier territory.
While the music is largely bouncing, the album is actually named after its inspiration; a French play, Rhinoceros, by Eugene Ionesco, which featured people succumbing to a mass metamorphosis becoming Rhinoceroses, while the main protagonist of the play remains a true unique individual. The play was possibly a reflection of how Nazism took hold in the public in the 1930’s and 40’s. The album thus explores the dilemma between the natural human want to fit in and belong, and the conflict you feel when you need to be individual and to plough your own path.
In fact my only slight criticism of the album is that musically it is almost too accessible, too manic, even though as suggested the lyrics on many of the tracks cuts through the wild optimism of the music with images of isolation and confusion. The closest to being equally deep in the music comes with the track Cruel Girl which sees their blend of surf fuzz mixed with something much darker.
To close, we have Out of Use which again questions the purpose of life, and has a particularly nice bit of surf fuzz guitar as a main refrain. It’s a good and solid way to close the album, and Jess’ vocal on this song is particularly anguished.
To sum up, Calva Louise truly achieves their initial promise with this first album; it has bright, breezy and very accessible tunes matched with songs that question the self and direction we are taking. While perhaps my gentle concern is that the music is slightly too cheerful throughout the album meaning the 300 mile an hour pace does not slow for a moment, there is also plenty of time for the band to chop it up as they develop in their career. Overall this particular Rhinoceros is looking suitably and stylishly uncomfortable in its skin just as their creators wanted.