¡Los Checkmates!

Con Los Checkmates!

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This lone album offers a rather pleasant if, truth be told, superfluous and lightweight exercise in hero worship from the Mexico-based (though a melange of nationalities, including, in key roles, expatriates from north of the border) garage band. Generally speaking, Los Checkmates asserts itself admirably on the songs closer to the bubblegum or light pop/rock side of the charts. It does particularly well by the Monkees, whose "Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You" and "I'm a Believer" the band covered with vibrancy and aplomb, though Dave Atherton was no Mickey Dolenz. On an instrumental level, however, Los Checkmates proved itself quite capable, particularly on wonderful covers of "No Milk Today," "Western Union," and "I Think We're Alone Now." The band never attempted to provide the songs with any sort of original spin, instead going for precise mimesis. In the above examples, the mimicry works quite well, resulting in delightful little facsimiles nearly up to the quality level of the original versions. That being said, it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to replace Herman's Hermits, the Five Americans, Tommy James, or the Monkees in their collection when those bands had far more to offer on the balance. It becomes even more of a stretch considering that everything else on the album falls substantially below the bar. As gamely as it tries, Los Checkmates simply weren't capable of anything substantive or gutsy. Anything with a blues or soul foundation was beyond its grasp. Unfortunately, those sorts of selections make up the larger part of Con ¡Los Checkmates!. It doesn't take more than the first chord of Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'" to leave the Checkmates version choking for air, and the vocals, on top of that, can't muster an ounce of the soulfulness of Dolenz, let alone Steve Winwood. The Lovin' Spoonful, the Buckinghams, and the Rolling Stones receive the same fate. And then anything that required harmonic complexity (the Turtles) or subtlety (Gerry & the Pacemakers) also falls flat. Instead of a decent party, it ends up reminding of the sort of pale exploitation albums (does anyone remember the Buggs?) that hit record bins after the Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show.

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