We had the great honour to meet and interview Tito Larriva and Peter Atanasoff for our online music show From Hero To Zero. As preparation for the interview, I listened to the entire Tito & Tarantula discography, including their newest release, Lost Tarantism, released on 17 April 2015 and produced by Tito Larriva and Robert Rodriguez.
The album starts with When To Let It Go, a uplifting song that reminds me of Butch Walker and Los Lobos equally because of its smiley-but-melancholic spirit.
Track 2, Back To Mexico, is a soft stoner rock piece that paints the perfect picture of a nostalgic trip across the desert, southwards to Mexico. “I lost my home and I’m bound for lots of tears” is the line that stuck with me most, even after I finished listening to the record. The backing vocals on ‘I’m going back to…’ are very emotional. Not sure who sang them, but they are very strong. Definitely a gem on this album.
Jokes On Me, starts with the line ‘Where’s that bitch?’ reminding me for the first time of to the Tarantism-times. Also, the rougher musical direction of the song is closer to Tarantism than the two previous songs on this album. A solid, straight rock song, and the band brings down the intensity a notch here.
Track 4, Damn Good Day To Die, is a shuffled blues-song and a refreshing change. The lyrics and the music match like a fist on an eye. The slide-guitar on the right-hand side of the musical spectrum gives exactly the right amount of suspense throughout the song, all the way to the outro solo. Great song!
Cry In The Night, is a ballad that stands out for its strong choir harmonies in the chorus. The line “Let me heal your broken heart”, as well as the violin addition in verse three and especially towards the end of the song, open up the song and bring a welcomed uplift. A very good ballad.
See You On The Way Down is more what an old-school Tito & Tarantula fan would expect – or request – from the band. A crunchy, stoner rock track that, again, matches music and lyrics perfectly. Peter’s guitar solos are amongst the strongest on this album in terms of energy and rockness.
Track 7, Navajo In A Ufo, is a song that asks the listener to carefully listen to the lyrics. I’m not going into the story here, but recommend to pay attention to what Tito is singing. This is another of my favourites on Lost Tarantism, because of the catchiness of the song.
Wild Love starts with Tito repeating the sentence ‘Oh baby, let me be your wild love’ to a crunchy guitar riff. A simple but effective hook that motivates to sing along, even when sitting at your desk, listening to the song and writing about it – or maybe I should say, ‘especially’ instead of ‘even when’. Maybe not the strongest song, but a good bridge to the next one.
Track 9, You Don’t Scare Me, shows a different side of Tito & Tarantula by adding elements of funk to the album. The straight-forward funky bass line played by Jennifer Condos reminds me of some Will Lee work on Hiram Bullock’s Try Living’ It album. Good stuff. The song also shows the versatility of drummer Nick Vincent.
Gimme Respect is a straight rock song that could easily turn into a crowd-pleasure at live-gigs because of its anthem-like chorus. I can’t help nodding along while listening to the song and typing away.
To Paradise is a heartfelt ballad played in 6/8th that brings back memories from high-school dances where boys and girls engage in awkward slow-dances to finally disappear together. I guess you get the picture. Definitely the perfect song for anyone with some heartache. Another favourite of mine on this album.
The closing song of the album, In My Arms Tonight, brought me close to tears because of the story it recounts. The intermezzo goes like this, “‘I never leave you darling.’ That’s what you said to me. ‘I’ll always be there, baby… When I woke she was gone.’” Of course there are countless heart-break songs out there, but there’s just something about the way Tito tells the story, and the dynamics of the band, that makes this piece especially cruel for fragile hearts. For sure my favourite song on this album and maybe even on every other Tito & Tarantula record.
In My Humble Opinion
I love this album and have enjoyed it more than any other Tito & Tarantula release so far. Peter and Tito told me that they thought it was a pity not to release these songs. They have been dormant for years and now was the right time to bring them back alive. Personally, I’m very happy that they did this. Lost Tarantism feels like a sequel to their critically acclaimed debut, Tarantism. And the fact that they support the album with a reunion tour, makes this release even more special.
The production of the album is exactly how I love it. The sounds of all instruments come with a live feel and are stringent throughout the entire album. No flashy effects or unnatural editing. If you close your eyes and listen to Nick’s drum sound, you can imagine yourself standing in front of the drum set in the studio, while the band was recording. Peter’s and Tito’s guitars are perfectly balanced from left to right. The same applies to Lyn’s mandolin, recorder and other instruments she plays. Then, Jennifer’s bass is punchy and loud enough – which on too many records isn’t the case. Furthermore, Tito’s voice floats in a very nice, warm reverb that carries his dynamic singing perfectly.
I’m not sure if the band had a clear concept when they wrote and recorded these songs. But the fact that Tito & Tarantula always seem to stick to their unique style – even though some critics might claim differently – the stoner rock/melancholic feel of the album underlines all songs in regard to lyrics and music. I can recommend Lost Tarantism to anyone who likes bluesy sounds and also to people who simply enjoy good handmade pop-rock music wrapped in a thin layer of desert sand.
Total grade: 8.5/10
Watch the full FHTZ interview with Tito Larriva here: