Okay, it was perhaps inevitable that yr resident Goth critic here would love this album, but the follow-up to their eponymous debut is killer. Play With Fire is a real step-up, in terms of ambition and confidence. Not that the first record was lacking. It’s just next level.
With their doomy, bleached skeleton rock, LA Witch feel like a cinematic gang, rescued from the jaws of Tarantino or Rodriguez, three dimensional women rather than objectified: the trio get to be kick-ass and have real flesh and blood adventures out in the desert, stealing cars, scenes and hearts at every turn.
Yet, for all of their influences – The Stooges, Cramps, Mazzy Star, Sabbath and Dick Dale are in their DNA – they’re very much their own three-headed beast. Opener Fire Starter has a crispness to its surf twang, which quickly dissolves into hazy psychedelic rock.
Sade Sanchez, the lead singer and guitarist, still gives good glower, and Irita Pai’s basslines roll like rattlesnakes as Ellie English bashes out taut voodoo rhythms, but there are new slivers of vulnerability. Gen-Z takes on suicide in its lyrics, and Dark Horse even flirts with a tender Spanish guitar and 60s organ lines.
So the songs can’t help but feel slightly more exposed, in spite of trademarks like the girl group chant in Sexorexia and Starred‘s jarring tremolo and feedback squeals. Maybe The Weather is warped country grunge with stormy synths, and Sanchez pushes her previously bored/disaffected vocals further out into the depths of agitation, doubt and abject despair.
The result is an assured album that says it’s okay to feel life is often confusing, ghastly and disorientating. This is evinced by I Wanna Lose with its immediate zippy riffs, which twists the supposed mindlessness of nihilism, instead suggesting that getting lost is part of life. “Choose to lose and free yourself”, Sanchez drawls.
It’s as if the band are ready to let us in, whereas before there was a slight patina of cool between the audience and them. They’ve maybe removed their shades, then, but don’t look too closely into their eyes… yet.