Masked musicians, a gimmick or part of the show? I’m inclined for the latter, even if some cynical spoilsports like to go for the former. The Residents enjoyed wearing big eyeballs, Los Straitjackets were one of the first ones to wear Luchador masks and do some stylish rock and Mexican surf acts like Sr. Bikini, Lost Acapulco & Los Elásticos have all wore a luchador masks. All enjoyable acts.
My point is, I don’t think wearing a mask is a gimmick, at least not more than wearing denim jackets or cravats is. As long as the sound is intertwined with the stage presence, I’m all for it. Now, I’m Mexican and I haven’t seen a single match nor film with luchadores, but when I saw Los Pecadores last year, I recognised one of them using a Mil Máscaras mask and wondered if the wrestler would’ve listened to them while eating a gargantuan Torta Gladiador and driving a busted up convertible by Artículo 123.
I mean this because Los Pecadores sure love their garage rock, but there’s a clear influence of 50s horror films (which include most luchador films), you know the ones, the b-movies you might’ve grown up watching that sported stop motion (if they had the budget), paper maché sets and some dodgy masks. Besides, the artwork of Escape from Uranus would fit right at home with Grandpa Munster‘s Super Scary Saturday (or Monstervision!) , where the lovely old man would present and talk about a old sci fi films.
There are no vocals, it’s all samples and punk surf for your listening pleasure. ‘Los Pecadores vs The Scum of Uranus’ is more surf than anything else, with a quick clip setting up the scene and pretty much the mood of the album; a vertiginous trip through darkened alleys on a pimped up Dragula. ‘Intergalactic Nuclear Fallout’ is a fun one, nicely followed by ‘It came from the skip’, the one with the sexy bass interlude (damsels in distress is a trope of the genre.) ‘Trails of fire’ is the sure highlight of this side, with a frantic pace and a seedy undertone. ‘Systemsmasher’ returns more to surf territory, with drumrolls and a chunky guitar you can groove to.
Side B starts with that ever so lovely sci fi instrument, the Theremin (it probably is a sample or a saw – I’m easily confused). ‘Torpedo’ is as mean as ‘Trails of fire’, slightly more garage and moshpit friendly. ‘Contraband’ is more turf than surf, with a quick wink to Peter Gunn‘s theme tune for a touch of class (and counterfeit grain alcohol). ‘Little grey men’ is like that time El Santo had to deal with a demented murderer with an axe and a cut scene had him driving to several states, strangely enough using the same road all the time. Mexican desert + masks + garage surf = ‘Little grey men’. ‘Rogue robots’ uses a sample from the trailer of Robot Monster, an unjustly maligned b-movie with an interesting monster. This song expresses my anger at the snobby bellends that deride these films, with its fatalistic use of divebombs and other guitar trickery in lieu of sci fi special effects. It’s a perfect way to end the album, as this very solid track re-affirms the band identity.
Escape from Uranus is available on vinyl. It truly deserves the hiss and crackle you get from the medium. If you enjoy a darker side of surf and love your Ray Harryhausen films, this is a pretty solid purchase from Los Pecadores.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López