After spectacular opening sets by locals Whispering Wires and Lenguas Largas tourmates White Night, Lenguas Largas casually took the stage with a usual set opener, "I'm Goat," from their 2011 self-titled debut LP. The band had returned home just hours before they performed and it's likely they were exhausted. But aside from Isaac Reyes' slightly frayed voice, that scenario would be undetectable without the backstory.
The biggest challenge when discussing Lenguas' music is that it doesn't lend itself to cut-and-dried analysis. In the span of about five years, they've arguably artistically eclipsed many of their influences and touchstones—the psychosis of Roky Erickson and the De Stijl-informed punk reductivism of Wire, to name just two. And while Lenguas' triple drummer attack (on this night expanded to four, plus a percussionist) functions similarly to Tommy Hall's electric jug oscillations in the 13th Floor Elevators as their four guitars (one of them a downtuned baritone) usually playing just a few notes between them recalls a multitracked Wire, this band is a mini-orchestra running away from rock history. The amount of instrumentation is never cluttered; it's more in line with layered hip-hop production and its socialist density—a guitar sample never demands special attention, nor does any member of Lenguas Largas.
As for the songs—readymade classics "I Feel," "How a Man Should Live," and "Yardsale Heart" were all present with newer material like "Come On In" and "Ese Culito"—the group takes building blocks of the past and runs with them, going through Bo Diddley's Africanized rhythms and introducing a relaxed sexuality absent from most '60s garage bands. Mark Beef and Ricky Shimo often play unison guitar lines—Shimo's drenched in spacey effects grounded by Beef's raw and natural tone. The drum beats don't vary much throughout; they build, dissipate and build again, atop of which Reyes, sometimes joined by Shimo, plead their case.
Lenguas is a brainy endeavor, but it doesn't have to be. You don't need a rock 'n' roll textbook to feel it and love it because at its core, the music is the essence of rock 'n' roll. And rock 'n' roll, like they say about cool, doesn't advertise. Nor does Lenguas Largas, who transcend time, Tucson and the burden of history as they remake it in their own image.