Spain Invades L.A. -- Again

I don't expect too many people reading this to remember Spain (that's Spain theband, not Spain the country), other than readers who were living in Los Angeles during the short-lived Silver Lake slowcore explosion of the mid-'90s. (Other bands in that scene included Idaho and the Radar Bros.--ring a bell?) But sometime around 1995-1996, Spain were L.A.'s proverbial next big thing.

Lead by Josh Haden (son of jazz great Charlie Haden, brother of That Dog sisters Rachel andPetra, brother-in-law of Jack Black), these mood-music maestros wore suits long before Interpol made it cool, had their gospel-tinged death ballad "Spiritual" covered by Johnny Cash on his Unchained album, could name Rick Rubin among their diehard fans, and signed a lucrative deal with DreamWorks Records.

NME actually gave the group's debut The Blue Moods Of Spain an 8 out of 10, saying: "...late-night West Coast grooves here....there's a rich, glorious warmth to their songs that combines the melodic simplicity of...theVelvet Underground...the metronomic precision ofSpiritualized...and the heartbroken sentiment of theTindersticks..."

Melody Maker further gushed: "The most gorgeous music you'll hear all year...the four-piece are quiet masters of atmosphere, subtle craftsmen who weave a sumptuous, melodic spell with the lightest of instrumental touches....Rather than wallowing in sadness...the songs simply luxuriate in it."

Well, nothing ever really happened with Spain. They knocked out a couple increasingly alt-countryish albums to fulfill their contract with their original indie label, Restless Records, then disbanded; Josh was supposed to release solo stuff on DreamWorks...but then DreamWorks folded. Typical music-biz story of the band that got away.

Josh has continued recording indie releases on his own and with his other band Dead Sea Scrolls; doing his weekly "Diamond Sounds" podcast; and collaborating with the likes of Handsome Boy Modeling School,Sean LennonDan The AutomatorKid Koala, and the Blue Man Group. But The Blue Moods Of Spain may remain his finest work. So 12 years after that album cast its all-too-brief spell, Josh and his fellow Spaniards reunited last night to play the disc in its entirety at the Echo (a club co-owned by my fellow L.A. woman Liz Garo, the former A&R exec who signed them to Restless).

 

Spain flier

 

Well, they didn't wear their trademark suits (I actually felt a little overdressed in the sequin-spangled tuxedo jacket I wore for this special occasion), and I didn't recognize any original Spain members onstage other than Josh...but it was a supremelly crowd-pleasing show nonetheless. Audience member Jack Black, sporting a peroxide-blonde Rutger Hauer buzzcut and a Cheshire-cat grin, seemed to be having a particularly fabulous time, spending much of Spain's set unsuccessfully attempting to get his wife Tanya Haden (Josh's sister) to slow-dance.

Below are some concert clips (WARNING: as I noted before, Spain are a sleep-inducing slowcore band, so donot watch these videos while driving or operating heavy machinery, OK?)...

Lyndsey Parker