When most people think of Florida, chaotic Spring Breaks and stretches of elderly retirees are usually two of the first things to pop into mind. Of course, the entire state isn’t just a mass of beach parties and avid seekers of Early Bird specials, but for better or worse, that’s the image that Florida tends to have. A closer look, though, reveals plenty of surprises and many hidden gems — such as Tallahassee’s Look Mexico. The indie rock outfit is set to release their second full-length, To Bed To Battle, on March 23, and much like their home state, Look Mexico offers plenty of rewards for those who dive deep into the album. You can download the album here.
It’s difficult to get a definite feel of To Bed To Battle, as it offers a wide variety of sounds. The opening track, “You Stay. I Go. No Following.”, is a mid-tempo jam that doesn’t try to do too much but does everything well. The verses are driven by lingering organ and a meandering bass line, with distorted guitar chords sweeping in at just the right moments. Singer/guitarist Matt Agrella manages to pull off the everyman feel as he sings, “Thanks all to your promises, we’re picking up extra shifts these days, and it’s not paying for minimum wage.” While such a line would be absurd coming from more established bands, Look Mexico still feels authentic enough to give the impression that Agrella is trying to relate with his listeners, not putting on an act.
“No Wonder I’m Still Awake” follows with a similar tempo, except steady strumming on the guitar is present from the very beginning. The track features some great guitar work, which is ironic considering at the same moment, Agrella is singing that he is “tired of playing the same chords I’ve played before.” By now, it’s evident that Look Mexico doesn’t provide the soundtrack to late nights in Miami or daytime parties at the beach, but instead offers chilled-out indie rock suitable for any time.
The next song, “Take It Upstairs, Einstein,” throws out another curveball, opening with some orchestral strings, but then following up with Agrella alone with a guitar, giving the song a classic singer-songwriter feel. The lyrics here are masterful, with Agrella singing, “Maybe a good friend is like a great story — you can pick up right where you left off. But tell me, where is that kind of book? The kind you can’t put down.” The band also adds some slide guitar, which is a great touch, although it makes the song sound like it should have belonged on The Wallflower’s Bringing Down The Horse. Look Mexico makes the song all its own, though, with an extended orchestral break that takes the track to its conclusion.
“I Live My Life in a Quarter Mile at a Time” not only boasts a borderline excessively-long title, but a very catchy feel as well. Heavily echoed guitars result in a very dense, full sound. Look Mexico offers some of its hardest moments on this track, with some heavy strumming, crashing drums and Agrella stretching his vocal cords to the point of screaming, though it is very tastefully done.
“Until The Lights Burn Out?” slows things down a bit, opening with some light guitar picking Agrella’s soothing vocals. The song takes a while to develop, but the slow build adds an air of suspense and the melancholy feeling is palpable when Agrella wonders, “What would you say if I told you I’m giving up? No more air left in these lungs.” And just when one gets the sense that a hopeful line is around the bend, Agrella’s imaginary partner answers, “You’re not burned out, you just can’t hold the flame to make a difference.” The song continues to build, eventually leading to a lengthy instrumental break with some creative guitar riffing before the final chorus.
The next track, “They Offered Me A Deal,” brings the tempo back up, with a neat riff in the intro. This song has a bit of an early Wilco feel to it, as some horns can be heard blasting briefly in the background, and the quick strumming of the fuzzy guitars gives off an alt-country vibe. Whatever the inspiration, Look Mexico pulls it off without a hitch.
“Get In There, Brother!” follows, bringing a funky little riff and Agrella’s defiant pledge: “After years of saying please, I’m getting up off of my knees — I’m so tired of not being taken seriously.” With more songs like this, though, Agrella and company shouldn’t have to worry about that much longer, as this is another well-written tune. Everything from a haunting organ to syncopated percussion and a catchy chorus and skilled riffing are present in this one, making its two minute, 32-second duration seem too short.
“They Only Take The Backroads” is another solid track, featuring more prominent organ work and light guitar riffing. Look Mexico drops in some studio effects during the guitar break, giving this a slightly spacey feel, but things never stretch too far out of orbit. This down-tempo track probably won’t stand out, but blends in nicely as part of this cohesive collection.
The second last song, “Time For You To Go Do Your Own Thing,” settles into another slow tempo, with the great riffing in the chorus easily standing out as the best part of the song. There aren’t too many highlights in between, but this isn’t a painful track to listen to, either.
“Just Like Old Times” wraps up the album, and from the opening notes it sounds as though Look Mexico was in the mood for a big finish. Guitars and horns form an unlikely but very pleasant combination, although everything but the drums drop out for the first chorus. Agrella steps up the lyrics on this track as well, delivering some hard truths as he sings, “You’re too old for this, little boy…why are you still here wasting time, you’ll be late for your own life. So why don’t you go put on a tie and get a job…pull tight until the air stops holding you.” The horns and guitars trade off the leading role, which features an extended instrumental jam section. This is a very strong track and a great finish.
Though Look Mexico isn’t a household name now, it’s not hard to imagine their popularity seeing a surge after the release of To Bed To Battle. While some indie rock bands tend to have strikingly similar sounds, Look Mexico breaks the mold and sounds fresh and creative. The band covers a lot of musical territory, but it’s not aimless wandering — the roaming pays off. You can download the album here.