It’s a truly rare occasion on which a garage rock band sounds inspired and energizing. While the good majority of power-chord riffers between Detroit and Stockholm are capable of writing some decent tunes, it takes a King Khan or a No Age to truly stand out. And I’ve heard enough Mooney Suzuki songs to know that, on occasion, garage rock can even just plain suck. But there are always exceptions, and usually unexpected ones. Just as Canadian citizen and Germany resident King Khan blew the doors off of fuzzbox expectations in 2007 with What Is?!, the mysterious and ultra-fun Los Fancy Free step up to take anyone willing on a pupil-dilating, brain-shaking psychedelic garage trip.
Based in Mexico City, Los Fancy Free is fronted by the Swedish-born and raised Martin Thulin, making for an odd but nonetheless thrilling cultural mix. The group’s third album Nevergreens Vol. 1 follows in a lengthy and diverse rock `n’ roll tradition, drawing inspiration from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Os Mutantes, Syd Barrett, all the way up to Franz Ferdinand and Düngen. Yet even when it touches upon more modern influences, there’s a distinctly vintage feel, like a long lost Nuggets find. Even the album’s cover has a weathered and worn look, not to mention the band’s black and white retro-futuristic uniforms.
Swirling, almost Sitar-like riffs drive the trippy opener “The Naive Heat,” a standout track that builds into a marching, Beatlesque chorus. It’s a magnificent lead into an album full of thrilling curiosities and delightful rockers. The hip-shaking rave-up “Jajaja” sets the bar even higher, with atmospheric organ underscoring the jagged riffs, and Spanish lyrics that find Thulin sounding oddly like Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. Dreamy reverb-laden riffs and eerie, ascending and descending organ riffs drive the brief “Bona’s Psychedelic Breakfast,” which then bleeds into the hard-driving “Beatle Suit,” a fantastic track punctuated by falsetto “oohs” and even more spindly, effects-laden fretwork.
Though Nevergreens Vol. 1 is thoroughly steeped in the psychedelic rock of the past, it’s an inspired and fun record that reveals the extent of garage rock’s promise when a band injects a little bit of creativity into it. Los Fancy Free may not have the name recognition of Black Lips or Jay Reatard, but don’t be surprised if that all turns around after people get their hands on this gem.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.