With Leave Me Alone, Hinds offer up the first record of 2016, and something warm in the depths of winter. The Madrid natives began as a duo a few years back, bringing out a number of demos before expanding their stoned garage pop sprawl as a four-piece. Together with The Parrots they’re part of the so-called ‘Spanish Invasion’, and have rushed head-first into 2016 with a stellar debut album.
Their writing is a paradox of the elliptical and blunt, underlined by a Cheshire Cat grin: “I am touching without hands because your skin looks shy” is one such example, from the brazen Chili Town which Hinds proudly tout as a ‘winner song’. It’s a refreshing disruption to the standardised English tongue, and lends itself to the way that Hinds firmly position the voice as an instrument, loping in and out and of the ramshackle arrangements with sultry whispers and giddy cries. Their melodies are lethargic, held together by slow-rolling percussion and choppy guitars, making even the pacier numbers like San Diego roll sleepily across the ear.
The only real gripe with Leave Me Alone is that there are only so many runaway guitar squalls and instances of piercing audio you can take before the rustic DIY recording risks loses its charm; scratchy jangle of album closer Walking Home is made unforgivable by a sucker punch of horrific vocal clipping. Likely a conscious production decision – possibly in pursuit of the fuzzy-edged delight of their key influence The Velvet Underground (with Nico) – it really has to be questioned if this is a necessary or an aesthetic choice, and a happy balance needs to be struck in future material.
A counterargument could be that this is Hinds’ chaotic live reputation, so key in their speedy rise throughout 2015, spilling out all over the recordings. Their trademark stage-invasions aren’t something you can translate to audio too well, yet Hinds refuse to allow tracks like the fantastic Bamboo to lose that energy as Carlotta Cosials purrs “I need you to feel like a man when I give you all I am.” There’s still room to impress when the energy is ratcheted down, and if anything these are the record’s finer moments: the rebuttal of gender stereotypes has never sounded as romantic as the hushed I’ll Be Your Man, or the beautiful instrumental Solar Gap, an ambient summer’s evening of featherweight guitar plucking.
The lo-fi beer-foam anarchy (like The Libertines with none of the dysfunction) that Hinds revel in is a delight to jump into, but it’s sometimes a trial to make it through Leave Me Alone without the beer turning warm. The racket that Hinds make is a long cry from the sanitised norm of modern recordings, but to not persist with it would be to miss out on the first great album of 2016.