At a point in music shaped by formulas and marketing strategies, where the value of a pop song is derived almost entirely from the technology used to produce it, El Gato Dice’s latest album, Tres, reminds us of an earlier time when the heart of pop music was still red, beating, and engendering noise complaints from within countless garages across the world.
El Gato Dice, telling us what the cat says since 2009
In case the name hadn’t indicated as much, Tres is by no means the band’s first contribution to the music scene. The members of El Gato Dice have been explaining what the cat says since 2009 over the course of three albums sequentially named Uno (2010), Dos (2015), and Tres (2018). Tres, their most recent collaboration, continues this meowgnificent aural tradition by blending sounds from all the most nostalgic moments in your beat-up CD collection – even the ones that melted in your car that one summer.
Tres is both nostalgic and revitalizing
While Tres retains that eclectic shoegaze indie-rock sound that has always lain at the core of El Gato Dice’s work, it does so in a way that feels fresh and revitalized. This may have something to do with the injection of new blood into their lineup, as founding members David Jesitus (Guitar, Keyboard, and Lead Vocals) and Robert Crews (Percussion) are joined by Alexis Blair (Bass and Vocals), whose talent and passion help to solidify her place as an integral member of the band. The success of this transfusion is perhaps best exemplified in the call-and-response style of Tres’s 8th song, “Keep a Fire.” The conversational interplay between the voices of Alexis and David represents a coalescence of musical and political sensibilities that is both culturally relevant and indicative of the band’s deep, Grunge-y roots.
Tres also features a guest performance from veteran musician and educator Pollyanna Bush (Vocals), whose prolific career has spanned across more than 30 years and 100 recording projects. Bush adds layers of class, sophistication, and professionalism to the group through her musical sensibility, pitch accuracy, and impressive range. Her solo towards the end of the first track, “Simplest Design,” combines all of those elements in a soaring display of vocal prowess that is unquestionably one of the most memorable moments of the album.
‘Hoy No Hay’ and ‘Tres’ bring metal-clad angst to the mix
While Tres is rich with fun and engaging moments, it’s the title track and its lead-in, “Hoy No Hay,” that really stand out to me. As the only two instrumental tracks on the album, “Hoy No Hay” and “Tres” collectively feel as though they create a space in which each member of the core group is able to stretch.
“Hoy No Hay” is a dark, metal-inspired interlude that roils the listener forward with steadily mounting intensity into a distortion-riddled climax that could inspire the most angsty of mosh pits. “Tres” follows like a sigh of relief with its blend of electric and acoustic instrumentation which seems to marry the metal-clad angst of the previous track with a newfound sense of perseverance. These songs are dripping with grit, nostalgia, and hope – qualities made all the more potent for being expressed not through words, but through thundering drums, blood-pumping bass, and eardrum-rupturing electric guitar.
Tres induces ‘Battle of the Bands’ flashbacks
With Tres, El Gato Dice has taken me back through the past two decades to remind me that the spirit which has inspired so many people to create and support live independent music is still very much alive. So if you remember sneaking out at night to catch your favorite local band perform in a converted warehouse space, if you remember sweating buckets in your band-mate’s garage as you run through the same tunes over and over again in preparation for that next bar gig, then you should unclip your name tag, crack open a beer, and listen to what these Gatos have to say.
– review by Jaren Cloud