By Carlos Reyes
Weighing appeal against melodic success, Little Ethiopia’s self-titled opera prima is an ambiguous first step from what has to be one of the most bloggable newcomers in Mexican music. Little Ethiopia is the localized embarkment of José Solé and Santiago Gómez, two 17-year-old kids whose idea of cosmopolitanism involves a good set of rhythmic shifts and plenty of buoyancy. With not many bands from our niche to measure up to, comparisons to Surfer Blood, Smith Westerns, and Harlem are somewhat justified, and the band’s aimless, axe-wielding penchant is of great export potential.
“I burnt the feet of the devil for my broken heart,” says Little Ethiopia’s first single, a darkly tinted number that reveals the band’s punctuated areas (slashing guitars and monochromatic slogs), while also revealing flaws in their off-the-cuff lyrics. Another tribulation in their music is the presence of a deeply affected accent that feels culturally-weaved and uncomfortably stretchy. Like most of their revivalist peers, the duo dresses pop structures in avalanching noise (of both riffs and electronics) and, as unpolished as it might sound, the band’s youthful spirit and catchiness prevails. Album opener “Lies” breaks loose from the act’s vintage aesthetic and steps into the hip-shaking barbarianism of Bloc Party and Foals. This song is so catchy and self-emerged in grooves that it makes me wonder if these kids belong to the last generation to grow up listening to MTV Latinoamerica (not the best music on there, but certainly catchy.)
Little Ethiopia’s mechanisms work best when they labor their landscape in petite scales as they do in “Young Love & Nightmares.” Here we get a wounded melody that actually fits into the duo’s panoramic ambition while maintaining their juvenile inquisition (as deeply chanted on the album’s best line: “young love is not the way to go”). Little Ethiopia is a clever entry-level record with a few flaws and a few flashes of brilliance. Still, there are empty patches between the music, lyrics, and aspirations that need nourishing (too much of them are plainly simple). Sometimes having a chaperone around isn’t such a bad idea; it would certainly make things more tactile and less dependable.