The Koala

The Koala

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The Koala prove themselves to be above average players, full of passion and conviction on their lone album. "Look at the Way She Comes" is typical of the band's best material: a Who/Stones hybrid with bile-inducing vocals, wild psych guitar, and a tight, nearly deranged performance -- plus it's a great tune. At first, "Strange Feelings" seems to be teen-punk angst all the way, but features an unexpected yet seamless raga detour (and the only time they would noticeably embrace Indian music). "Poppa Duke Tyler" borrows both the melody and subject manner of "Eleanor Rigby," but instead of going the somber route the Beatles took, Koala uses the universal theme of loneliness to produce a stomping, unhinged rocker -- complete with fuzz-tastic guitar solo from Louis Cane -- where the protagonist is actually driven to the brink of madness by the isolation. Like many garage vocalists from the mid- to late '60s, singer Jose Mala's super-snotty, Jagger-like snarl foreshadows punk, but Mala has so much New York attitude and an obvious dedication that he should stand with his peers as one of the most affective vocalists of the era. In fact, it's the whole group's commitment to the material that makes it stand out from other lost garage-psych acts from the time. Their energy and enthusiasm is so infectious, with arrangements that are subtle, yet manic and appealing, it makes up for the handful of unremarkable numbers here. Drummer Joe Alexander and bassist Anthony Wesley are a competent rhythm section that manages to hold it all together even while flailing about; Cane's hyper lead guitar work is spot-on throughout; and the songs of Mala and rhythm guitarist Joey Guido are fine to fantastic tales of lost souls, wrecked relationships, and fading childhood. Truly one of misplaced gems of '60s garage pysch-punk.

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