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Alien Tango’s hyperactive pop plays a risky but exciting game on Kinda Happy, Kinda Sad

"Kinda Happy, Kinda Sad"

Release date: 12 May 2023
Alien Tango - Kinda Happy, Kinda Sad cover
12 May 2023, 09:00 Written by Joshua Mills

Spanish-born multi-instrumentalist Alberto García Roca is throwing the kitchen sink at his gleefully frantic debut album.

You’ll know whether this is for you before the end of opener “uwu”, a 52-second sprint which boasts intertwining guitar and keyboard lines, jabbering vocals and squelching bass. Still reeling, we segue into “Lemme Go”. It’s an impressive production job: walls of chords, drums, and saxophone compete for space as the song stops, starts, stops again, turns a bit Animal Collective, and loops back to the beginning. Somehow it all hangs together, making for a breathless beginning.

The kitchen sink approach isn’t always to the album’s benefit. “Pulpo Frito” begins with laid-back, jazzy guitars suggesting a change of pace. By the minute mark, half a dozen new instruments have been introduced and the style shifted twice. Likewise, “Memories Are Better Than The Real Thing” quickly ditches its uncannily Jeff Mangum-esque acoustic intro in favour of what can only be described as mucking around. Ideas which might have been explored are quickly abandoned.

When Kinda Happy, Kinda Sad does calm down, like on the title track, it’s a welcome break. García Roca briefly ditches the goofball persona in favour of honesty, feeling “Kinda horny, kinda mad / ‘cause you haven’t told me where you’re at”. It would be nice to hear a little more of this self-examination over the record; it doesn’t feel like García Roca is being evasive so much as pulling at every thread in an occasionally disjointed fashion.

Ultimately, though, we’re joining Alien Tango for a good time, and he provides this in spades on highlight “Song For FIFA”. Complete with a fidgety, ascending keyboard riff, shrill backing vocals, and liberally deployed orchestra hits, this is a delightfully daft nod to 80s Yuppie rock. Gordon Gekko would be proud of the couplet “No time to use my new stereo / Must diversify portfolio’; if the track isn’t exactly the most revealing, it’s far too fun to worry.

Kinda Happy, Kinda Sad leaves its most traditional song, slightly oddly, for last. Lead single “1000 Years” is a sugary, blissfully optimistic love song that sounds timeless. Why it’s sequenced here is anyone’s guess (it doesn’t feel like a closer) – perhaps García Roca had to tire himself out before writing something relatively straightforward. It’s an outstanding song on an impressive record, one whose streamlined approach would be worth taking on board in future.

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