The Pontiac Brothers

Fiesta en La Biblioteca

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Engineer Randy Burns got a noticeably tougher hard rock guitar sound out of the Pontiac Brothers for 1986's Fiesta en la Biblioteca, and that seems to have inspired the band to crank up the amps and let things roar a bit more than on Doll Hut; even though the band had been pared down to one guitar after the departure of Jon Wahl, Ward Dotson's slightly messy but suitably crunchy leads sound ready for your local sports arena, or at least the biggest P.A. your local saloon could handle. And with Dotson sounding all the more heroic, the rest of the band followed suit -- Matt Simon's twangy bellow shows a lot more weight and authority, and bassist Kurt Bauman and drummer D.A. Valdez sound louder and prouder than ever before (while still packing a punch that was more punk than bar room slog). But it's the songs that really make Fiesta en la Biblioteca the Pontiac Brothers' best album; melding roots rock melodicism, hard rock thunder, and a Replacements-esque fondness for a good laugh and a cold beer, Fiesta is chock full of classics, including the joyous "She Knows It," the pleading "Look Out for That Train," the mock glam "She Likes to Rock," the bitter "Be Married Song," and (gasp!) a full-bodied cover of the Grateful Dead's "Brown Eyed Women." The songs get a lot funnier on this set, too, with "when that girl said 'hi,' she already told you everything she knew" only one favorite offhand joke on the album. And the closing "Don't Have to Die" made it clear that underneath the power chords and spilled Budweiser was a band with a lot of heart and soul. Before the rise of the Sub Pop tribes, nobody in the indie rock underground carried the flag for good ol' hard rock like the Pontiac Brothers, and they never did it better than on Fiesta en la Biblioteca (and kudos to any Spanish librarians with the courage to give these guys a gig).

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