Chelas or Chales?, Debut Album by The Paranoias
The Paranoias is a band made up by 5 young musicians who are also part of the L.A. Collective in South Central L.A. who have carved themselves a niche in the ever growing “underground” ska scene of Los Angeles, but with the release of their debut album, Chelas or Chales? it confirms that they are much more than just another ska band, they are one of the most eclectic, creative and innovative bands in the whole L.A. music scene.
The Paranoias have slowly but surely become one of the top bands in the L.A. ska scene by virtue of their live performances at the annual SkaWars festival and performances at ska concerts around the city, including the Levitt Pavilion at McArthur Park and even sharing the stage with Celso Piña at The Troubadour and Inspector at The Union.
The Paranoias had appeared on a couple of different compilations and had also released some singles and EP’s on line. From those recordings, it was clear that, although the band could be a great party band and make great music just for fun, they were also very serious about their music as it showed on covers that appeared on the Avalancha compilation, like their rendition of the 70’s classic “Mi Viejo”, or their version of “Tell Her” (“Tell Him”) originally made popular by Patti Drew in 1964 and original material like “No Restrictions” and one my personal favorites, simply titled, “Untitled”.
On Chelas or Chales?, The Paranoias show that; although they are young musicians, they have “old music souls”, as they have delved into the roots of the music they grew up listening to. On this album, which was mixed and mastered by the band themselves along with one of the leaders and biggest supporters of the ska scene in Los Angeles, Clemente Ruiz, the band goes from their more familiar ska sounds and ska fusion, to electronic music, r&b, reggae, soul, jazz, bossa-nova, punk and some good old rock & roll.
Very often, independent recordings lack in production or sound quality, but this debut album by The Paranoias is definitely one of the best sounding independent recordings I have heard in a while. The production value is top notch and the quality of the sound really highlights the skills of the band members as musicians which features the many facets of Ralf Velazquez's voice which can go from a soulful and incredibly romantic to raging mad and also his rhythm and guitar solos; Nico Curiel (aka Profesor Galactico) lends his singing experience on backing vocals and rhythm guitar, while Albert Alexander Arevalo plays some of the most dynamic and creative guitar riffs and I consider him to be one of the top guitar players in the whole L.A. music scene; keeping the band on track are Javier Gonzalez playing some of the most imaginative drum beats and fills along with some amazingly ingenious bass lines from David Campos, who I also consider one of the most innovative bass players in L.A.
Besides Chelas or Chales? being influenced by the sounds of the past, it also has a vintage feel on the way the album it’s set up, as more than half of the songs are between 1.5 and 3 minutes long, which is a throwback to the days of the popular 2 minute singles of the 50’s and early 60’s.
Below are some highlights of this 17 track album:
“Girl” is the track that opens up the album which is an acoustic ditty about lost love that includes beautifully harmonized “oooos” that is reminiscent of those doo-wop singing groups of the 50’s and early 60’s.
“Cute” has more familiar sound of ska fusion, but has a 60’s Brazilian pop feel to it.
“Last Time” it’s an angry break up song with a raging guitar attack that is sure to get a huge mosh/skanking pit going from the opening riff.
“Latenights” is the longest track on the album at 5:39 mins. and it shows the band’s love for electronic music. The track has a trance like electronic beat accompanied by acoustic percussion while subtle bass lines drive it along while hypnotic keyboard melodies ride above the beat like waves, and toward the end, beautifully melodic guitar riffs take it over.
“Greasemonkey” is an instrumental guitar attack reminiscent of old 60’s surf music.
“Come Back Home” really shows that “old music soul” I mentioned earlier, as the band takes you on a ride through a combination of R&B and soul with drums beats, bass lines and bluesy trumpet sounds taken right out of the black neighborhoods in the east coast in the 1960’s.
“Tu Balcon” takes you on a ride through the Brazilian sounds of bossa-nova, with masterfully acoustic guitars and percussion that can transport the listener to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
“Boy” it’s a reggae track with guest singer Vel The Wonder, who has the most passionate and soulful voice along with heart touching trumpet melodies by E.V. Dub and heart wrenching guitar riffs. At the end of the track it also shows the band’s great sense of humor, as you hear Vel The Wonder asking if she should do it again, and I can just see the faces of the people in the studio thinking, “how can it be any better?”
The album closes with “Domingo” which is back to the more familiar ska sound and humor of The Paranoias as shown on the official video for this track which is also one of most creative and best edited videos I have seen from an independent band.
Chelas or Chales? is definitely a must have album for any serious music fan, as this album could be the independent music’s answers to Café Tacvba’s Re or Beck’s Midnight Vultures.
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