The trouble with releasing a greatest hits album (in Los Protones’ case “20 Monstruos” on Green Cookie) as an active band is that your next release is expected to rise above that bar. Los Protones show that they’re willing to rise to that challenge, releasing an ambitious and lush record that feels extremely well thought-out.
One thing that feels like a mark of 2000’s surf music is the Pet Sounds approach, where the array of sounds is stretched far away from the standard rock & roll setup and closer to an motley orchestra (see Barbwires, Los Javelin). This is one of those records -- every single instrument feels like a conscious choice, an answer to the question, “what would sound good here?”. Surf guitar is far from the default answer and is often lower in the mix than you would expect. But it’s not just choice of instruments, but the choice of tone, the guitar constantly changing its form to match the mood. They really know what they’re doing, and the decisions they make are constantly interesting.
It’s a treat to listen to nice and loud on good speakers. You can hear the entire sonic product as a whole and appreciate that unique sound, or you can pick it apart and listen to each sound and the role it plays in that combination. These type of instro records can fall into a trap though: for all the whizbang going on, you might ignore the lack of melodic content. I don’t think this is as awful as it sounds -- if you enjoy listening to it in the moment, that counts for a lot, even if you can’t remember any of the songs later on. I do wonder if that’s the case with this record: full of incredible sonic texture but with only a handful of songs to whistle to. It’s hard to say without more listens how deep this record will sink under your skin, but the emotion and feelings in the moment are very real. And what a range: as I type this I’m listening to “Presiago”, a beautiful song with sunset feelings to it, but that’s followed by “Punta Panico” a great surf song with traditional leanings (and one of the better melodies on the album) with a great hollow guitar sound and brass accompaniment. This isn’t just Pet Sounds: some of these sort of records can lean into near exotica territory, but Los Protones still have teeth when it counts.
The best way to put it is that it’s an adventure, full of twists and turns and new experiences. Is this better than their Greatest Hits? Maybe, but at the very least, it matches the variety. This seems to mostly be available on the bigger digital retailers like Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, iTunes and the like.