The Guardian [En]: how Spanish pop went all twee
Spain might be stereotyped as the land of Latin ballads and daft Europop, but its twee "friki" scene is a nice alternative
Even if you've never been to the archetypal Brits abroad bolthole that is Benidorm, the image you have of its nightlife is probably more or less accurate. The choice is generally between hundreds of bars pumping out inane, greasy Europop, Robbie Williams tribute singers and "adult magic act" Sticky Vicky.
Next weekend, however, the Spanish resort will host the Low Cost festival, notable for a second-on-the-bill appearance from uber-indie stalwarts Belle & Sebastian. The idea of the bookish, spectacularly wan Glaswegians holidaying on the Costa Blanca is a much better pitch for a sitcom than ITV's Benidorm, but the band are surprisingly popular and influential in this part of the world. Spain has a whole thriving counterculture of bands known as "frikis", who are proud to sport the black plastic spectacles, hairslides and cardigans of classic indie lore, while singing songs that are directly at odds with every stereotype that foreigners have about the country.
Mallorca's cutesy Papa Topo, for example, have a fantastic track called Lo Que Me Gusta Del Verano Es Poder Tomar Helado. This literally translates as What I Like About The Summer Is Being Able To Have An Ice-Cream, with the lyrics making it clear that the band hate everything else about the summer and can't wait for the winter to come. Band A Part's similarly unseasonal Blankets is about feeling sad while thinking about someone ice-skating in a nice scarf. The more dancey but equally fey La Casa Azul have a different take on friki culture. Their frontman calls himself Guille Milkyway and has been known to persuade his band to dress up in Star Trek-style costumes for their videos. A similar love of sci-fi comes across in Madrid seventet Capitán Sunrise's twangy, 60s-influenced El Chico Más Guapo De La Galaxia (The Most Handsome Boy In The Galaxy).
All these acts are signed to Madrid's Elefant records, who seem to be on a mission to convince the world that Spain, far from being purely the home of relaxed Latin lovers, can actually do buttoned-up, heterosexual camp and songs with trebly vocals as well as anyone.
It's true that British indie fans might look at Papa Topo and La Casa Azul and wonder if, in fact, they're just wearing a kind of geek-drag, putting on the specs for a laugh, while in reality they're straight down the chiringuito to listen to Pitbull. They do seem to have suspiciously good skin and their tunes are cheerful enough to make it clear that being a friki can actually be a lot of fun.
For the ultimate friki anthem, however, try Música Para Cerrar Las Discotecas from Barcelona's Doble Pletina. It's a song about being stuck in a noisy club and wanting to either go home or die, whichever comes sooner. It can't help but strike a chord with anyone who's ever been on a stag or hen weekend to Benidorm.
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