New Mexico, formerly named The Apes of Wrath, are based in San Diego. You’d think they would be from Albuquerque or maybe Santa Fe. I dug around on their MySpace site where they explain the name change: Apes of Wrath was a four-person band that played more dance/rock, whereas New Mexico is a three-person band (Jake Bankhead on bass and vocals, Dustin Elliott on drums, and Robert Kent on vocals and guitar) that takes pride in not being found on Google. If you try to Google them, you might instead find, say, the New Mexico State Marching Band. Well, that explains it pretty clearly, and leads me to believe they don’t take themselves too seriously; although they are getting some serious recognition for their talents. In fact, in September of this year, New Mexico performed and were nominated for Best Alternative Artist at the San Diego Music Awards, a city that finds itself quickly becoming a new alternative cultural epicenter.
I wish I were in San Diego, driving in my convertible while listening to “Motion Sickness,” the first song of the EP. Just try not to move to this song. It’s a head-bopping blast. There is a great line repeated in the chorus, “Motion sickness of the heart,” that gives the song a dark humor.
New Mexico work into an equally rocking second song called “Abused and Amused.” The first verse dives in with a bite:
“He could have your sister/if he wanted to/Plus she’s into bean heads/Dudes who look like you.”
Other energetic songs on the EP like “Get a Job” and “Golden” are sung with a monotone, Devo-style, but also nod towards The Ramones. “Chosen Ones” begins with a long guitar wave of feedback before bursting into the first verse, with solid harmonies from Robert and Jake on the chorus.
The more you listen to New Mexico, the more you want to identify them with classic punk or new wave bands; but at the same time, they feel innovative and new. “Case Closed,” slows things down a bit and is more complex, with vocal hints of Robert Smith. There is a floating, echoing repetitive guitar riff throughout the verses, a nice bridge of ooh-ooh’s that breaks into heavy drums, then explodes into the chorus.
New Mexico’s classically fresh sound should be seen and heard loud and live to be fully appreciated. I visualize a live show, outdoors, on the beach, with hundreds of shiny, happy people, fists pumping and heads moving in unison, rockin’ out. I hope they make their way up the coast for an outdoor show in Seattle sometime. July would be nice. Maybe August…
You can stream the EP in its entirety at New Mexico’s Bandcamp.