Spicnic/Chin Chin, Spain
by Pierre Lestruhaut
For a band, finding a specfic sound in which they can cement their own aesthetic can be as easy as coining a term like pop-abily, yet reinforcing it and fully developing it through the course of several full-length records requires a lot more creativity than that. With already an EP and a full-length in less than two years, Pamplonese six-piece outfit Los Ginkas' (name taken from the Gin-Kas cocktail) obsession with both many kinds of '60s and '70s sounds (from stomping rockabilly and yé-yé to the current girl group revival) and the so-called Tonti pop (a melodical and naive sounding form of pop that emerged in the late '90s in Spain) made them sound like a band so obsessed with the past that it was difficult to see them take any other possible direction in the future.
Keeping up with the admirable pace of one release every year, eponymous first single and its respective video showed Los Ginkas intentions of picking up right where they had left, putting up a collage of B-movies and William Castle gimmicks, and shaping them together at the foreground of their already distinguishable Ginka sound. Shrugging off the more literary approach to songwriting most Spaniard indie relies on, Los Ginkas is the kind of band that would rather embrace the arbitrariness of pop lyrics, picking up (or making up) words purely for their formal qualities (“Ginkana-rama-gabba-rama-mania”, “Heca-tom-tom-b”) and letting them outline the inherent bliss underlying in their series of hooks.
As a band who’s always been honest in showing off its own musical fandom and wearing its influences on its sleeve, there’s a total of 3 covers in Ginkana-Rama-Gabba-Rama-Mania: “Sé de un lugar” is a cover of Marta Baizán’s yé-yé-but-in-Spanish version of English composer Tony Hatch’s piece “I Know a Place,” “Pim-pam-ville” is their own reinterpretation of The Illusions’ sixties garage rock piece “City of People,” and “Un vermouth (corto de cinzano)” is essentially a wine-infused party to the rhythm of NRBQ’s “Captain Lou.” Yet high points in the record come at the more versatile moments. “Una y otra vez,” sung by a guest singer has one foot standing in the American South and the other well in the Basque country, putting together country licks alongside Donosti Sound and Elefant Records’ trademark melodical charm, while “Heca-tom-tom-b” closes the album with a clean instrumental surf rock number.
Overall one could reproach Los Ginkas for being uninterested in developing any kind of forward-thinking sound, lyrical depth or affecting storytelling. And for anyone not very enthusiastic about the whole 60s revival it will probably be a difficult album to relate to. In Mad Men’s recent recurring Heinz pitch storyline, we saw the show’s copywriters trying to sell an ad for baked beans using artsy motifs (a bean ballet) and sentimental taglines (“Home is where the Heinz is”), yet their client has a fixation that the ad should just look and sound “fun,” appealing to young people. It’s in this concept of embracing the “fun” behind something (in this case making retro rock/pop) that Los Ginkas differentiate themselves from most revival acts. Where others may have ambitions of sounding artsy by adopting a lo-fi sound, or emotional by writing songs about boyfriends, Los Ginkas are only worried about discharging on their fans all the fun that can come from playing simple gum pop.