Art for The Allah Las' upcoming self titled debut album
The Allah Las didn't exactly come out of nowhere, but they sure sounded like it. Until just recently, this L.A. band's only release was a haunting 45 on Pres Records, the tiny but much-beloved label started by guitarist/singer/producer Nick Waterhouse, whose own music re-explores the lost art of '60s R&B (a la Ike Turner, later author of the Off-Ramp theme song). Their B-side was a woozy cover of the 1965 obscuro "Long Journey," a song already barely able to even stand up straight, and the A-side was their own formidable original "Catamaran," which comes bleeding through the cracks between the Animals, the early Stones and the first few years of Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. These were two songs that were slow, strange and a little menacing, in the way that looking out at the ocean in the middle of the night can make you want to step back toward the land and the light.
Like Waterhouse, they turned out to be deep and scholarly record collectors--the Allah Las met while working at Amoeba. And like Waterhouse, they soon signed to L.A. independent Innovative Leisure, where they have two new singles out and a debut full-length just about finished pecking its way out of the egg. Teaser tracks like "Tell Me What's On Your Mind" and "Don't You Forget It" (a collab with Waterhouse) sketch out the Allah Las' vision of L.A. as a place equal parts 1967's freaksploitation film The Trip and 1961's beach mystery Night Tide--all psychedelic lights and noir shadows. (Both of those are Dennis Hopper movies, too--that's important!) They're a Sunset Strip band like Love, the Standells and the Seeds were Sunset Strip bands, but there's plenty more to their sound. Remember how L.A. was once the city with not just Pandora's Box but Bunker Hill and Long Beach's Pike, too, where it turned out there had accidentally been a real dead body in the funhouse for decades. That's the kind of landscape behind these songs--you'll recognize it instantly.
Made In L.A. Music with the Allah Las and Anne Litt on Thurs., July 12, at the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. 7 PM. All ages. Free.