Fricke's Picks: Blue Van, Deltahead, Eduardo Mateo - Rolling Stone
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Fricke’s Picks: Blue Van, Deltahead, Eduardo Mateo

Here is a good way to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Summer of Love without breaking your neck looking backward:

Dear Independence (TVT), the second album by Danish forward-freakbeat quartet the Blue Van, who find plenty of room in the sharp, tight songwriting of “Goldmind,” “The Time Is Right” and “White Dominos” for a strobe-light-R&B tumult as visceral as the vintage live recordings by the Move and the Who in my bootleg cupboard. In their fast forty minutes at the Spot Festival in Denmark in June, the Van — singer-guitarist Steffen Westmark, electric-church organist Soren Christensen, bassist Allan Villadsen and drummer Per Jorgensen — turned a riding-academy stable into 1967 at London’s Marquee Club, except for the mosh pit of teens up front for whom psychedelia was obviously just an eleven-letter word. Dear Independence has been out half a year, but it’s not too late for discovery. “Now the time is right/The time is right/For loving,” Westmark sings here. He’s right.

Deltahead are two blues Swedes who, in their set at Spot, looked and played like a pair of weirdly antique one-man bands. Guitarist David Tallroth and bull-fiddler Benjamin Quigley both sang, wore whiteface makeup and kept time on small drum kits, amplifying their ragged plantation stomp through a mongrel cabinet of Edison-era speaker horns. The result, to borrow the White Stripes’ album title: real icky thump with avenging-comedy lyrics (“My mama was too lazy to pray,” “Don’t move to Finland!”) and chantlike choruses that were more like the Monks than the Black Keys. The duo’s album, Deltahead (Peace & Junk & Drums/V2), doesn’t have the visual whack of their live show. Everything else is there.

Calling Eduardo Mateo the Nick Drake of Uruguay may seem at best faint praise, at worst absurd. It is neither. Mateo, who died in 1990, was a singer-songwriter whose grainy, sensual voice, magnetic romanticism and reckless habits were already local legend when he made the stark, beautiful 1972 release Mateo Solo Bien Se Lame (Lion Productions). The combined impact of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Brazilian tropicalia are evident in the swoon and minimum-overdub swing of Mateo’s songs and performances. There is also a vivid loneliness that eerily evokes Drake’s last album, Pink Moon, which was made almost at the same time (late 1971). To hear Mateo sing, “Behind you it was that I saw myself/I looked the nothing I felt,” in “Tras De Ti” (“Behind You”), is to marvel at how great, sad minds think alike, even so far apart.


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