La Plebe 

Hasta la Muerte!

But for the fact that its songs are almost exclusively sung in Spanish, San Francisco-based ska band La Plebe could be a dead ringer for old 924 Gilman outfit Operation Ivy. After all, it has all the defining characteristics, from Lupe Bravo's gravelly vocals to the raucous two-man horn section of brothers Antonio and Alberto Cuéllar — not to mention that most of the songs on this full-length debut clock in at three minutes each. What distinguishes this bilingual outfit from its more pop-oriented forebears is its heavily politicized tone. La plebe translates as "the proletariat," and most of La Plebe's lyrics fall in that populist vein. Take "Pinches Fronteras" ("Fucking Borders"), a song inspired by the bandmembers' irritation over Antonio's inability to secure a visa for their European tour (the trombone player was born in Mexico). It begins in a querulous tone, though Bravo grows increasingly rattled as he carps about border fortressing and xenophobia. The song's last line talks about immigrants being deported to "secret prisons" to mollify American voters — the irony being that borders seem impervious unless you're being ejected.

Mostly devoid of virtuosic solos and rock-star wankery, ¡Hasta! has a couple moments of striking musical depth, such as the bluesy horn line that opens "Run Joe" — a song about a small-time drug dealer running from the law — or the surfer guitar riff in La Juventud. It is, overall, a terse, fast-paced, and energizing album by a group committed to the coarse styles and pissed-off sensibility of punk rock. ¡Hasta! ends on an upbeat note to boot — even if the last verse of the last song, "SOB," is about exacting revenge on a rival by dousing him in gasoline and lighting him with a cigarette. That's punk for you.

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