Cole Alexander and co. may have the blogosphere fooled ' they've been described as 'slurred swashbucklersâ?� and 'the best kind of badâ?� ' but Los Valientes (recorded live in Tijuana) exposes the barely legal garage rock vets for what they truly are, despite their best efforts to convince otherwise: disciplined. An erratic and messy band in such an inherently messy land as Tijuana is a perfect fit, and after being hilariously introduced as 'Labias Negros,â?� the Atlantans scream 40 minutes of incomprehensibly beautiful phrases like 'Lost my handle, and now I'm really on my own,â?� punctuated by a sound of breaking beer bottles that almost certainly is not digitally enhanced.
Tracks like 'Stranger,â?� which revisit the Lips' 2004 eruption-in-a-can We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow, showcase a brilliant handle on the buried three-chord life that lies within the cacophony, and Jared Swilley's melodic bass is never more appreciated. 'Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah,â?� off 2005's Let It Bloom, is a rapturous highlight, all jarring false starts that build to a Rio Grande crescendo of boozy independence. For a moment, Valientes seems poised to deliver on Alexander's shouted promise, 'This is gonna be the best live record of all time!â?�
Every time the Lips threaten to devolve into total anarchy, a familiar track rings out and their professional side shines. The layered midtempo psychedelia of 'Everybody's Doing Itâ?� depends on awkward chord progressions that the guys hit just right, and the cohesion provides momentum for a rocking third act that less mature bands, high on Mexico's anything-goes vibe, could never pull off. They even find room for the beautiful self-loathing love song 'Dirty Hands,â?� which twists the Archies' 'Sugar Sugarâ?� into a post-postmodern inner monologue about getting high and being in love, and Alexander sweetly alters the lyrics to play like a blog written from some dimly lit adobe courtyard the night before.
Against improbable odds, in a city where they probably could've gotten a pass for a debauched set that ended with the frontman falling into the front row, a collection of 20-somethings have compiled the first great live album of the year. It's not that they don't let loose ' the two-minute feedback finale 'Juvenileâ?� earns them a drinking-song curtain call from the crowd ' it's that they trust their listeners enough to believe they came for the songs, not just for an excuse to go ballistic. After all, who needs an excuse in Tijuana?