The folks at Piñata Records never fail to inspire us. This has been a quiet year for the Twin Cities’ best record label, who released a staggering series of successful singles and LPs last year. Their two full length albums this year have been awesome: Black Diet‘s return showed more depth, range and complexity than their debut (our review is here), and way back in chilly January the label released New Noir by Mystery Date, which is the most strangely compelling mixture of power pop, new wave and good old fashioned punk rock we’ve heard in years. We are weirdly addicted to both albums, as we have been to everything this retro-fueled, forward-looking label has released.
And now, after telling us they would never release another 7-inch single, they’ve outdone themselves by snaring another band which fits smartly into their distinctive roster. The rockabilly reared, punk perfected quartet L’Assassins have established a passionate following over the past couple years, but their recordings have been sparsely split over singles and EPs. Each has earned rave reviews, and the band is sure to find even more fans the more people hear them. We think this new single, “Fire of Love,” is their best yet.
The band is a perfect fit for Piñata Records, who have consistently found local bands with a strong retro base and fresh ideas. L’Assassins longest release, the Lovin’ on the Run EP put out by Big Action Records in 2013 (here), pulls together all the variety of vintage and contemporary influences they’ve cited in interviews: rockabilly like Wanda Jackson and Buddy Holly, killer psychobilly like the Cramps and Minneapolis’ own current music culture, in which the band is revered as a live favorite.
It’s hard to separate the band’s sultry aesthetic from their music, given the relationship between the “pin up girl” look and rockabilly’s historic role as an outsider music. In one interview, guitarist Monet Wong points to Thee Headcoats as an influence, “keeping music alive from the previous generation, [while] adding your own twist and of course doing originals too,” before acknowledging “there’s not a lot of female examples to point to.” Women were an anomaly in much of the rock and roll influencing bands like L’Assassins, more likely to objects of affection or anger than the ones offering the expression.
L’Assassins are sure to build a bigger following with rockabilly and punk rock fans as quickly as with young women who want to be inspired by more bands like Thee Headcoats. One thing we’re especially excited for is the video for “Fire of Love” to be released soon. There’s a preview on Youtube, which has hints of Tickle Torture creepiness, but also classic L’Assassins sexiness. If their epic video for “Backstreet Bomp” directed by Tyler Jensen is any indication, “Fire of Love” is probably going to be the best video of the year.
It’s disappointing, though not surprising, when reviews of the band focus more the women’s appearance than their performance: for instance, in a review for Razorcake, the always classy Rev Norb describes L’Assassins as “hot girls with nice hair and guns” long before he mentions their music. It’s pretty clear the quartet welcomes the attention if it gets their music a fair listen, and they’re actually backing up the oft-mentioned attitude with even meaner music. Seriously, listen Lovin’ on the Run, and don’t Monet Wong’s sweet guitar riffs in “Be My Dog” or our favorite track, the inventive, invective “Creep.” L’Assassins are so good the band would easily clobber the competition in a blind listening test.
They certainly impressed the Suburbs’ Chan Poling, who wrote “Fire of Love” with L’Assassins in mind. He and new bandmate Steve Price (who had joined the Suburbs for 2013’s surprise album Si Sauvage) produced the session for the new Piñata single, and Poling sat in on L’Assassin’s blazing original b-side, “Liar,” which might be our favorite song by the band to date. We absolutely love the addition of the organ, which calls to mind their new labelmates, Narco States, as well as a history of sweet keyboards on Minnesota garage rock records. Lead singer Tea Simpson never sounded better than on these two new tracks, and the guitar riffs and solos are explosive. Both new tracks are so well-produced they burst out of the speakers here at Hymie’s, and we’re glad nobody complains when we play the stereo entirely too loud.
The release show for “Fire of Love” is this Friday at Lee’s Liquor Lounge. Also performing will be Chicago’s Krank Dandys and Black Widows. The always awesome Travis Ramin will be spinning garage records in between sets. Details, on the facebook, here.
Addendum: The Video!!!
It was posted on Youtube this morning, between the time we posted our excitement over the single and the time we returned from a business meeting (yes, even record stores have business meetings — they’re just more fun than the ones we had in our old jobs). This is the 10th (!) video of L’Assassins written and directed by Tyler Jensen and producer Sasha Landskov, and it lives up to all our expectations! They all have a short film — Kill Kill Kill! Bang Bang Bang! — which will be featured in the Minnesota Underground Film Festival next month.