ALBUM REVIEW: Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone (Pure Noise Records)

Spanish Love Songs are a classic example of why it’s always good to get along early to a show to catch the support bands.

I saw them recently supporting The Menzingers on their UK tour, and was instantly won over by their heart-on-the-sleeve blue collar punk rock. If I’d just turned up for the headliners, they might have passed me by entirely.

The five-piece formed in Los Angeles, California, in 2014, and this is their third album – and what a record!

Singer and songwriter Dylan Slocum admits previous album Schmaltz was an insular collection of soul-searching songs and admitted: “I don’t want to be the band where each album is me complaining about myself for 40 minutes.”

Dylan Slocum of Spanish Love Songs. Pic: Gary Welford.

And although he’s tried looking for positives in life – see song titles like Optimism and the title track – this is another album which tackles weighty topics like addiction, depression, debt, mass shootings, and climate change.

It packs a powerful punch with some meaty riffs from Slocum and fellow guitarist Kyle McAulay, a tight rhythm section in bassist Trevor Dietrich and drummer Ruben Duarte, while Meredith Van Woert adds a welcome wash of keyboards.

Slocum is a wonderful observational writer, soaking up the fine details of the daily lives, fears and shattered dreams of those around him. He’s already baring his soul on opening track Routine Pain when he sings: “I’m so sick of saying sorry when I cry.”

Self-Destruction has him promising “it won’t be this bleak for ever”, but immediately answering: “yeah right … have you seen me lately?”, his voice trembling with emotion.

Spanish Love Songs were the main support for The Menzingers on their recent UK tour. Pic: Gary Welford.

These are songs about the daily struggle to survive which is the reality for many ordinary people who have to work two or three jobs, living for the weekend, and, on Losers II, sinking into depression at having to be bailed out by your parents “what’s gonna happen when they’re dead?”

In Beach Front Property he addresses a very modern fear – terrorism – when he sings: “I hate life these days … ducking into my seat because someone brought a bag into a movie theater”, and touches on losing faith when he concludes “don’t believe in God, figure he’d be a better planner than this”.

Spanish Love Songs. Pic: Gary Welford.

It’s bleak stuff, emo-punk in the truest sense, and all the more powerful for it, but beneath the despair there’s a message of hope, urging people to be less judgemental, and more empathetic to their fellow human beings.

The 10 songs here will make you realise that whatever shit life is throwing at you, you’re not alone, and in Dylan Slocum, you’ve found someone who can eloquently voice what it’s like to be try to be a responsible adult in these troubled times.

Spanish Love Songs are masters at the same kind of personalised storytelling as Bruce Springsteen, The Gaslight Anthem and, yes, The Menzingers, and if you like any of those artists I can guarantee this will hit the spot. 9/10.

Gary Welford owner