Italy’s Calibro 35 satisfy the needs of a specific and wonderful niche. They are among those bands who endeavour to replicate the sounds of the past and to lend them a contemporary edge, but rather than simply aping their favourite artists of bygone times, Calibro 35 immerse themselves in a specific aesthetic – the film music of 1960s and 1970s Italian cinema. These musicians have explored – mined – the soundtracks of that violent, vibrant stable, from bloody giallo slasher flicks to poliziotteschi car chase-filled”tough cop” outings. Calibro 35 have always both covered pieces from such films and written songs of their own in the same style – on their second album Ritornano Quelli Di… the emphasis leans slightly more to the originals, but the uninitiated will have no chance of telling the difference.
It goes without saying that Italian cinema buffs will be in their element with this record, as they will have been with 35′s self-titled debut – but this is a set of songs which will also have a great deal of wider appeal. You don’t need to have seen Mario Bava’s 1970 thriller 5 bambole per la luna d’agosto (Five Dolls for an August Moon) to appreciate the thrill of the cover of its theme song present here, nor do you need to have any affinity with Italian cinema at all to enjoy the slick funk grooves Calibro 35 are capable of and which are intense and absorbing on both the covered and original material.
The musicianship of the guys involved stands up to serious scrutiny, a crucial factor in making this exciting, razor-sharp music work. Without wanting to resort to overblown expressions – and unable to beat a corker like one blogger’s description of them as “tighter than an ant’s foreskin” – suffice it so say that these people know how to handle their instruments. In particular, the rhythm section is superb, an immaculately throbbing foundation for the instruments which are laid on top, which almost always means rough guitar, but can include harp, flute, brass, and liberal doses of unsettling organ, too.
The most immediate track here is the original ‘Eurocrime!’, a gripping sub-three minute summation not only of Calibro 35′s sound, but of the funky, edgy appeal of their and 1970s Italy’s whole style. This opening piece will remain the acid test for the rest of the album – if you’re taken in by this classy introduction, you’ll slowly fall for the charms of the more subtle and improvisational work to follow. In the end, I can’t think of a better and simpler recommendation for the album than to say that, inspired by it, I’m already planning on getting my hands on some classic 70s Italian crime cinema. Take a ride with Calibro 35, and don’t be surprised if you end up feeling the same. Ciao for now…