Xutos & Pontapés

Xutos & Pontapés

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Local music heroes seldom have a lot to offer to international audiences, but luckily, this is not the case with Xutos & Pontapes, the number one rock stars of the post-dictatorship Portugal. By the time of their eponymous album, Xutos & Pontapes had been around for over 25 years, and so a musical revolution is out of question, but still, this record is a great listen regardless of one's fluency in Portuguese. For starters, the group employs a full-time saxophone player who offers further proof that underestimating his instrument is one of the biggest flaws of the whole post-Elvis evolutionary tree. The sax and the prominent, driving basslines of the faster tracks have a Morphine-like vibe to them -- another point in the band's favor. The similarity seems to be unintended, and for the most part, Xutos & Pontapes stick to the classic rock setup, but the deceptively streamlined songs never lose the groove. A lot of influences can be traced here, from Hawkwind to Joe Satriani, ‘70s punk, and even Hüsker Dü and early Rush, if you really want to stretch it, but generally, Xutos & Pontapes are one of those bands that you can spend a lot of time pegging and can never quite pinpoint. A possible solution to this mystery is the fado vibe -- the distinctive Portuguese folk melancholy is prominent in the slower, more acoustic-reliant songs in the second half of the album, and it could've rubbed off on sunnier tracks, smoothing the rock grittiness, albeit in an exceedingly subtle way. But the real answer is that the band simply has its own songs to write, and it uses whatever comes in handy to deliver the goods. The means may include alternative rock, hard rock, blues, and local folk, but the result is definitely Xutos & Pontapes, and it's very much worth listening to.

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