Forged in the still-smoldering ashes of turn-of-the-90s cock rock and grunge, Lola Balatro has begun its riveting ascent up the sacred mountain of rocklore. With a genre-bending amalgam of instant classics, this Chicago-based trio effortlessly blends the unabashed sincerity of angst-driven post-punk with the unapologetic swagger of classic rock. Gifted tunesmiths in the mold of Cobain, Townshend, and Ocasek, Lola Balatro marries street-wise arrangements from the school of hard licks with textbook popology to generate a sonic fury that should inspire all regurgitating emo-core wannabes to recalculate their paint-by-the-numbers McRock.
In captivating live performances, dour frontman Jeff Madden's soulful howl is in overdrive, highlighted in the rockabilly antics of "F.A.M.", and vocal co-conspirator Paul Thomas's versatile crooning fills out the startlingly rich soundscape promulgated by this nascent group. Having imbibed the hooch of the guitar gods at an early age, virtuosic axman Cork Kangas shreds with buck-naked aggression over the unremittingly catchy riffs of Thomas's rhythm guitar, nimbly carving out solos from the subtle bombast that defines Lola Balatro's preternatural compositions. Kangas occasionally lends his own soaring harmonies as well, hearkening an alternate reality wherein Crosby, Stills, and Nash traveled the same musical journey with Neil Young long enough to share the “godfather of grunge” moniker.
From the fanged social critique ("Celebutante") to the urgent anthem ("Name That Panda") to the textured ballad ("Basement Head"), hook-laden earnestness proves the trademark of these enigmatic troubadours, whose lyrical imagery skillfully melds the profundity of a poet laureate with the libido of a longshoreman. Perhaps a line from the surefire hit “Wrecking Ball” might frame your mind for the exhilarant first coming of Lola Balatro: “Lay down for the show.”