One thing I sometimes miss about the US is effortless pop-cultural banter with friends, where one conversation can easily encompass topics as diverse as Underoos, Richard Simmons and Smokey the Bear (for instance), and no one has to think twice. Yet here in Spain, in spite of many common references, I often feel on the sidelines of pop-cultural conversations.
Filling in the gaps is an ongoing, and exciting, process. In the realm of Spanish music alone, there is much to learn.
Barcelona-based indie band Love of Lesbian is a group I find myself listening to again and again. This is one track I often replay, Allí donde solíamos gritar, “Where we used to go to scream”:
I finally got to see Love of Lesbian live the other week at a club in Murcia (their shows tend to sell out, which I learned the hard way last year – this time, I got my tickets plenty in advance).
In one of many personable, and often humorous, anecdotes, singer Santi Balmes told about being pulled over once while driving home from making a video. “¿Love of que?” the officer asked, when told the group’s name. “Love of what?” is apparently a question band members and fans hear often, which creates a bond among those in the know.
The band’s name is just one example of many insider references that foster a cult following, including anti-superhero Amante Guisante, or Pea Lover (a pea wearing an aviator cap, goggles and a cape), and John Boy, a fictive band of obscure cult status referred to in many songs (see videos below).
At the concert, many fans wore John Boy tee-shirts, and one fan had made an Amante Guisante puppet, which soared above the crowd at the tip of a wooden rod. Spectators sang along with such enthusiasm that they nearly drowned out the singer’s voice.
The live show was a conceptual journey through the band’s most recent album, 1999 (o cómo generar incendios de nieve con una lupa enfocando la luna), which translates roughly as “1999 (or how to generate snow fires by focusing the moon through a magnifying glass).” This is a theme album, offering a nostalgic glimpse into a significant year in the lives of the young protagonists, involving youthful passion and the heartache of unrequited love.
The pangs of nostalgia are palpable in the songs, particularly so for listeners like me, whose adolescent soundtrack was often set to 80s new wave bands like Joy Division, the Cure and the Smiths. The influence of these groups is clear in Love of Lesbian’s music.
The effect is like having a familiar pop culture conversation with friends, but in a Spanish context. I already feel more at home.
The “John Boy Fan Club” video:
The Amante Guisante: