It probably isn’t fair to compare Los Microbios to Burlington’s The Fatal Flaws. The latter’s sneering 2008 garage-rawk opus, Scragged, was among the more pleasant — or perhaps, unpleasant — surprises of that year. And though they may not pack clubs as consistently as other local guitar-drum duos like, say, The Vacant Lots, the Flaws are a charmingly uncharming entity unto themselves. Still, as evidenced by Los Microbios’ latest effort, Take Care … Beware!, there are certainly worthy parallels to be drawn.
As the Flaws are composed of husband-and-wife team Chris Beneke and Sasha Rodriguez, so too are Ira-based Los Microbios matrimonial mates: Lance and Licencia Jones. And like their Burlington counterparts, they trade in similarly grueling, no-fi rawk with a callous eye toward misanthropy. Like Beneke and Rodriguez, the Joneses employ a haphazard approach to musicianship. They won’t blow you away with virtuosity. But, of course, that’s hardly the point. Rounding out the association, Los Microbios have also been known to drop by the Flaws’ monthly Foofarawk residency at Radio Bean. But that’s just about where the comparisons end.
Where Beneke favors bluesy guitar crunch, Lance Jones leans more on classic punk constructs, as on album opener “Breastfeeding in a Twisted Village…!” With feedback-laden, speaker-crackling aplomb, the acoustically filthy tune serves as a fitting introduction but also a harbinger of things to come.
Things devolve from there. And though de-evolution is something of a garage-punk hallmark, the results are mixed until the album’s midpoint. The primary culprit is recording quality that goes beyond no-fi and veers into something else altogether. Below-fi, perhaps? Oh-no-fi? Case in point: “All the People in the World…,” which features quite literally painful bursts of hot-mic feedback. It is not often one recommends listening to an album with earplugs. But it might be appropriate here. And I really wish I were joking.
Blessedly, the cacophony (mostly) ebbs by the sixth track, “Outerspace.” Make no mistake, the tune is still grainy and trenchant as fuck, as is the remainder of the disc. But rather than blowing eardrums, Los Microbios settle into a groove that it is at least listenable. And at moments — such as in “Outerspace,” “The Space Between” and the disc’s lone instrumental track, “Regan Was a Terrorist” — it’s even enjoyable. Here’s hoping Los Microbios take marginally greater care toward protecting our fragile ears the next time around. Because, as their pals The Fatal Flaws proved with Scragged, subversive art and fidelity — even just a little — are not mutually exclusive.