Spanish Love Songs Schmaltz

Spanish Love Songs Schmaltz
6
What do you get when you listen to the Wonder Years and the Menzingers? You get Spanish Love Songs, a Los Angeles up-and-comer who offer a strong (if derivative) effort with their second album Schmaltz.
 
But let's not be too harsh. This is no cheap knockoff. The band earn comparisons to their aforementioned peers because they're doing what they're doing quite well. Sure, it's loaded with corny lines about "edge kids I used to mosh with," "getting blasted on Pabst," "waking up on beer-soaked floors" and other such pop-punk clichés. ("Nuevo" is the main culprit here, but it's an otherwise solid opener ripped from the Wonder Years' playbook.) And yes, it's hard to kick the thought that singer Dylan Slocum sounds like an overwrought clone of the Menzingers' Greg Barnett.
 
But with that out of the way, Schmaltz is an album of well-crafted, visceral punk songs that paint a detailed picture of a disoriented young adult trying to sort through mental anguish and heartache and find his place in the world.
 
Spanish Love Songs' main characteristic is Slocum's belted, heart-on-sleeve delivery, the kind you'd also get from someone like the Smith Street Band's Wil Wagner. "Otis-Carl" has nostalgic, heartbroken lyricism that makes you long for a lost romance between two people you don't know. "The Boy Considers His Haircut" is a fierce reflection on the self that's almost painfully self-aware — yet Slocum manages to sneak in some legitimate laughs. Other parts do seem a bit undercooked, with Slocum's candid, diary-style writing begging for an editor. Some lines land like punches to the gut, others with more of a thud.
 
Schmaltz makes good use of loud-to-soft dynamics but doesn't offer much in the way of variety (for one thing, keyboardist Meredith Van Woert seems to be woefully underused). What you hear is pretty much what you get from beginning to end. But at their best ("Otis-Carl" being the real highlight here), Spanish Love Songs can hang in there with the heavy hitters they imitate. If they stick around long enough to carve out a sound that's uniquely theirs, then we're really talking. (A-F)