Mujeres - Soft Gems

Soft Gems, Mujeres
Wea, Spain
Rating: 64
by Souad Martin-Saoudi

As certified by their Facebook page, Mujeres was formed in 2007 when four friends who met in film school began composing tunes for their movies. After graduation, they decided to follow their creative dream by pursuing rock and roll. With Yago Alcover and Martí Gallén on guitar and vocals, Martín Gutierrez on drums and howling, and Pol Rodellar on bass, this Barcelona-based garage rock act had humble beginnings, basically learning to play their instruments while practicing. But with over 500 shows under their belt, including the inevitable pilgrimages to SXSW and Primavera Sound, Mujeres has acquired a privileged status within the growing lo-fi vintage rock scene.

While their live shows exalt the brute, nervous and playful energy that inhabits each and every one of their songs, the production of the band’s second album seems to dilute their identity. Released in late March, Soft Gems covers most contemporary rock and roll in half an hour. Mujeres dirty racket, which fuses old time rock, rockabilly, punk, garage, and country, echoes acts like Black Lips, King Khan, and Demon’s Claws a little too much. It may be the abundance of easy-to-parse influences, but their sophomore album makes such comparisons inevitable.

The nervous cadence of the snare, tangled with the countrified guitar runs of “Soft Gems Pt. 1,” excites and inspires. This energetic album’s opening captures the explosive nature of the band, pronouncing a refinement of the recording sound without compromising their indecipherable rasps. But, after a strong introduction, the album withers under the weight of all too apparent musical references. “Salvaje,” the only song in Spanish, is a nod to the fathers of garage rock in Spanish: the title is simply borrowed from a Los Saicos song and the guitar replicates the one found on their 1965 single “El entierro de los gatos.” The rough treble and jangle in “Far Away” follows the drunken country blues twang of Black Lips’ “Cold Hands.” A sense of discomfort persists in “How I Am,” where Mujeres borrow the first notes of The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” and play them in the happy sing-along style of The Beets. Then on “Seattle Waves” Mujeres flirts with the ever-present surf rock craze.

Soft Gems also exposes the band’s early rock influences. In the psychedelic country jam “Ride a River,” the band revels in Wanda Jackson’s hypnotic “Funnel of Love,” in the nostalgic rockabilly “Heat and Shame” Mujeres echoes Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line,” while “I’m Over With You” recalls the jukebox serenades of Billy Fury, Del Shannon, and Ritchie Valens. While the quartet imprints into the listener’s cortex the name of many of its predecessors, it fails to embed its own trademark. “Calabrese Fingers” and “See the Light,” both soaked in reverb, redeem Mujeresexhilarating and party hard qualities.  The closing number “Soft Gems Pt. 2,” a soothing youthful surf ballad, brings us back to Mujeres initial raw, fun and unpretentious musical approach. The band has an undeniable knack for creating instant hits, although the sonic collage of Soft Gems sometimes lapses into scrapbooking. Mujeres comes off as one of those bands you absolutely have to see live in order to realize the strength and energy that has earned them public acclamation. 
Calabrese Fingers by PlayGround