REVIEW: Alex Lopez — Nasty Crime (LP)
Anyone who says blues-rock is a dead or passe form couldn’t be more wrong. It isn’t 1972 anymore with Marshall stack-fueled giants of yore striding the earth in their original incarnations, no, but modern practitioners are keeping the form alive with the same mandate of fidelity and revamping the form for modern listeners. Alex Lopez is proud to count himself among their number. His sixth album Nasty Crime finds the uber talented singer, songwriter, guitarist and bandleader of his longtime cohorts the Xpress in fine fettle. He’s arguably riding the peak of his powers and the crest of that particular wave shows no signs of ebbing soon.
He kicks the collection off with an emphatic blast. “World on Fire” is the work of a musician with his phasers set to kill rather than stun and the utter lack of half-measures taken throughout the track will be a treat to anyone valuing this sort of music. Yet it never lapses into overkill. Lopez understands when to pull back and when to press the issue so pairing him with an unit of like-minded musicians, as he is here, produces combustible results.
“I Don’t Care” changes things up by casting off the prominent organ of the earlier tracks in favor of a much more raw-boned guitar attack. Lopez’s vocal is stellar. It’s thrilling to hear him throw the words aside with the same cool confidence he spits some of the best lines out with and he displays an innate sense of drama as a singer that has developed more with each new release. “The First Time” is quite unlike any other album track, in some ways. The acoustic slant of the track is, obviously, its most notable break, but the gritty fireworks generated by both the guitar and human voice make this far more memorable than all the firepower in the other songs. It will hit home for many.
“Nasty Crime” is cut from much of the same musical cloth we find in songs such as “World on Fire” and others. His post-modern blues infused with a strong funk bite may sound a bit derivative for some, but Lopez’s individuality lives in the small details that set it apart like the subtle ways he mixes blues with more contemporary forms. “Holy Woman” is perhaps one of the album’s sleeper gems. Lost in the ballyhoo “The First Time” and the title track generate, “Holy Woman” is a clever enough lyric married to some of Lopez’s slinkiest fretwork yet. He has a great tone other guitarists will appreciate, and it is pivotal here.
The finale “That’s Alright” is one half blues tune and one half mid-tempo rocker with slight theatrical inclinations. Lopez and the Xpress strike up an easy amble, never allowing the performance to become too languid, and the drums are important for pumping it up with a little added pep. He closes his sixth album Nasty Crime with a song accentuating his greatest strengths, loves, and the bright future lying ahead. Let’s hang along for the ride.