There’s something a little difficult to get a grasp of when you’re hit with an album that covers more than one language vocally. Madrid duo The Parrots‘ second LP Dos does just that, with not only titles shared between Spanish and English but also the song lyrics as well, which leaves the flow impossible to maintain.
Ending an absence of five years after 2016’s debut Los Niños Sin Miedo (disappointingly not called Uno) – Dos finds itself lurching incoherently from one language to the other as a result. That’s not to say that the music has no appeal though, and if you’re indifferent to the intriguing world of lyrical deciphering then it may not matter anyway.
Diego Garcia (guitar, vocals) and Alex de Lucas (bass) accordingly found themselves in two places during the making of Dos and perhaps that’s telling. Originally, the groundwork was done in Hackney, London with producer Tom Furse (The Horrors) before the world came to a halt, but finishing things off in their home country may have influenced things back towards Spanish, with local friends in easy reach coming in to supplement the pair, as opposed to a return to London which became a non-option.
Initially, Dos impresses with prophetic opener You Work All Day And Then You Die. A brilliant, propulsive rhythm drives – nay, makes – a track that switches your ears on, ready for a treat. The chorus isn’t particularly groundbreaking with its repetitive lyrics, but it’s a decent cut and enough to make you sit up and take notice, which is what any good opening track should do. Just Hold On, another track sung in English, also fares well. A slab of psychedelic rock that reminds of bands like The Warlocks, its snaking guitar hook and spacey synths appeal in equal measures.
Once those two tracks are over, things start to become unstable. C.Tangana, a Spanish rap icon, features on single Maldito, but here’s where the switch to Spanish first occurs; it’s unsettling, and however good a track emerges at this point, there’s always going to be a feeling of derailment. Lo Dejaria Todo follows with its jazzy saxophone but its plodding nature and stop-start construction only assists the detour. And then it’s back to English again for the next two numbers – Don’t Cry with its twangy guitar, and It’s Too Late To Go To Bed which sounds like a jumbled mess based around a riff that could have been contributed by the great Nile Rodgers; its repetitive chorus also does little to rescue the situation.
Upbeat numbers Fuego and Romance (featuring Los Nastys) change the tone of the record somewhat but again, you’re not sure whether Spanish or English is going to be on show at this point which is unsettling in itself, and the latter – also the closing cut – soon becomes irritating, sticking in your head like an unwelcome insult. Another, Nadie Dijo Que Fuera Fácil, is easily the best of the Spanish numbers, but it’s different again: a dark, moody bassline is at its heart and scrawling post-punk guitars give it a further lift, but it’s rather short.
Switching back to English again, How Not To Be Seen feels a bit like a microcosm of the entire album: initially punky like The Clash, it develops into a poor man’s Breathe (The Prodigy) during its chorus only to then swing over to the jazzy saxophone side again, seemingly almost in an attempt to mimic Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ random saxophone section during Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. But by this point, the album has long since come unstuck, leaving you in little doubt that, along with the incessant eclecticism, the language switching is too unsettling. Perhaps if two separate collections had been started off by these songs – one in Spanish, one in English – we could have a couple of satisfactory LPs. Unfortunately, Dos in its current form – despite a sprinkling of very promising cuts – falls a little short.