La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau
Discos Dojo, Argentina
by Pierre Lestruhaut
One of the very recently found conjuctions among indie rock bands and DIY music in general, is the use of vintage-looking amateurish photographs as cover art. Although sonically it has found a broad spectrum of acts going from African pop lovers Vampire Weekend to '60s revivalists Dum Dum Girls to electro-punk marauders Crystal Castles, its use has met with very similar purposes. In Pitchfork’s This is not a Photograph piece published a few years ago, band members stated Vampire Weekend’s Contra cover was a “suggestive image that [served] as a dartboard for our conflicted feelings about class and commodities” (which single handedly defines VW’s music), while Dee Dee from Dum Dum Girls claimed she just delved into her mother’s collection until she found something that felt like her record. It’s a bit of a riveting thought, that something you're meant to hear can be so naturally equated with something you’re supposed to see, even more so an image that’s so temporarily distant from the record it’s supposed to represent.
Ever since La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau started making music, every single release by the Argentine act has been covered by a photograph that’s shimmering with the heartwarming reminiscence that can only be found in a dusty album of old family photographs. Their origin is easy to guess and rarely matters at all—you’ll find they’re usually childhood photos of some member or acquaintance—but the sense of borrowing an image from an old collection of photographs is an interesting analogy for how the charming guitar-based indie pop La Ola makes seems to borrow so much from a fine record collection. Though it’s surprising just how shameless they are about it. La Fuerza del Cariño starts with a bold recognition of their own tendency to draw inspiration from the past, as meta-song “Canción robada” speaks of how it’s easier to just steal a song when inspiration for writing a new one is hard to find, all of this while claiming to reuse a melody from The Cure’s “In Between Days.”
But where La Ola’s use of amateurish vintage-looking photographs as cover art finds itself even more attached to the kind of music they make is in the sense of nostalgia and longing for a previous time in their lives—one filled with unbridled joy, wholehearted naivete, and devoid of any serious responsibilities—they’re so aesthetically fixated on. The heartfelt enthusiasm you hear in Migue’s voice, the playful delight conveyed in the guitar licks, the minimalist and very naive, yet often conspicuously stirring, lyrics, or the immaturely thoughtless chaos and dispute in the "Ojalá que este verano no nos maten" video, are all signifiers of just how much La Ola have internalized their own coming of age nostalgia on so many levels.
As talks about the record started to take place around the CF headquarters, one of its most bumming aspects some of us seemed to agree on, was the inclusion of songs that were already part of a previous release (and thus very well-known among diehard fans). Being sort of let down by how La Fuerza del Cariño wasn’t an album made 100% of unreleased material, our own Enrique Coyotzi said it felt more like a greatest hits collection than a new release. In fact, judging it from the exasperating enterprise that is musical criticism, La Fuerza del Cariño is a good but not substantial addition to the already great collection of songs La Ola and Los Migues have put out so far. What you get when you just re-record some of the best songs in your catalogue and add a few same quality/same aesthetic tracks to them, is a safe album that is too afraid of not pleasing its own existing fanbase.
Another fellow staff member, Jean-Stephane Beriot, pointed us towards the genesis of the record, more precisely how La Ola financed it with donations from fans, and how the intentions of recording these songs with a more proper production had been there for a while (considering the homemade quality of their previous releases, it’s safe to say they had a more demo-ish purpose). It doesn’t speak much about the quality of the album itself, but it sure does give it some indieist romanticism to back up its own existence. Romanticism in itself, actually has a lot to do with La Ola’s own fixation with childhood and adolescence. If you take it as an ideal of sorts—romanticism as a refusal to accept the apathy and baseness of the real world—La Fuerza del Cariño might not tell us much about adulthood or the mundanity of our lives, but it sure does a fine job of portraying and reminding us of a time we all enjoyed living in. It’s pop music as nostalgic escapism at its finest.