By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Spanic Boys are an eight-eyed father-son duo from Milwaukee who fetishize vintage tube amplifiers, write economical country-rock songs of heartbreak and devotion like there's no today, and sport bellies suggestive of their hometown's most famous export. In the early '90s, when they were signed to Rounder Records and appeared on Saturday Night Live with—someone had to do it—Andrew Dice Clay, they were about as hot as such an act can get. These days Lorne Michaels won't even trade Web links with the boys, and their new self-released album isn't likely to reach beyond foul-weather fans, whose loyalty is rewarded with a dozen examples of nothin'-fancy near-genius.
Tom, the father, and Ian, the son, have for two decades reiterated and embodied roots rock's defining stance: Convincing rock 'n' roll needn't be rooted in generational conflict and can even flourish amid its opposite. If the Spanics argue about music, it's not, say, Presley versus Costello, but Presley '55 versus Presley '56 or Phil versus Don. Their harmonies are closer than aquamarine is to light blue, and their guitar playing—impressively fast when it needs to be, quasi-Eastern à la Richard Thompson for special occasions, backward for the Beatles rewrite—is cut from the same cloth and then fashioned into His and His Nudie suits. The Spanics can't lose with stoical she-done-me-wrong toe-tappers, but Sunshine's jewel is the open-hearted soul ballad "What Will You Do?," an inquiry into despair and defeat with no answers save for three piercing little guitar solos.
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