Judging by the cover of Tosta Mista, the new album by Hooded Fang, you might expect a record that’s an imaginary Mariachi soundtrack to a Mexican wrestling documentary. Sadly, this isn’t the case as it’s actually a surprising stylistic change for the Toronto six-piece, who have discarded their charming indie pop for a record of surf rock and Nuggets-style garage tracks. Previous album, errm, Album had a summery vibe and this isn’t entirely forgotten on a record that screams “FUN” across its breezy 22-minute running time.
Led by Daniel Lee whose laconic and off-key delivery calls to mind Jonathan Richman, Hooded Fang sound like they’re having a great time on this album, but not at the expense of isolating the listener. If we discard the three very short organ instrumentals on Tosta Mista (a Portuguese toasted delicacy, apparently) it’s actually more of a mini-album or expansive EP, but rather than it sounding like an experiment in kitsch or all surface and no feeling, it really does sound like it’s written from the heart.
First track proper ‘Clap’ begins at break-neck speed, all surf rock guitar and “ba ba ba” harmonies and contains the immortal lines – aimed at a fame-hungry female – “I see you up on the stage / but I still know that you’re deranged / when you take off all your clothes /you still act like an icy ho”. When ‘ESP’ follows on like a lost Count Five track (and it does have a beat not dissimilar to ‘Psychotic Reaction’) it’s a moment to get on the dancefloor and pull those go-go shapes you’ve been hiding away all summer. It’s an addictive formula repeated on later track ‘Jubb’ although that sounds a more modern take on the genre, with some angular guitar and buzzing synths making it sound like an alt-rock version of Nuggets.
‘Vacationation’ grooves and jerks in a stop-start fashion and takes advantage of harmonies provided by April Aliermo and Lorna Wright, blowing the autumn cobwebs away by transporting us from Ontario to the coast of California, and the title track ‘Tosta Mista’ is a tightly wound number that stomps along like it was recorded in the garage of a teenager high on strychnine and root beer.
There’s still space, though, for a slow dance courtesy of the swoonsome ‘Den of Love’; full of Spectoresque reverb and girl group charm, it’s a song written for Back to the Future’s Under the Sea dance and it’s a lovely way to end the record – save for the last haunting organ instrumental.
Tosta Mista is a record of great fun; it’s an enjoyable experience from start to end. Yes, it’s not earth shattering or envelope-pushing and it remains to be seen if it’s just a diversion for Hooded Fang, but until that question is answered just sit back and enjoy a short, sharp burst of garage rock.