lounge balladeers Cuba Las Vegas
’ 1999 self-released album These Crappy Years
is set for reissue this Friday, August 20th
via Funzalo Records
on all digital platforms.
Remixed and remastered by Paul Kolderie (Pixies, Morphine, Warren Zevon, Radiohead), the renamed These Crappy Years (Remastered) is a lost gem of an album. Recorded in 1998 at Right Brain Studios in Venice, Ca. at off-peak hours, the (now obsolete) master Tascam D-88 tapes were recently unearthed and underwent quite a bit of prep work by the band to have them transferred before Kolondrie got his hands on them. Those transfers unearthed an additional four previously unreleased Cuba Las Vegas tracks to the original album. New track listing as follows:
1. A City Like This
2. Beats Me
3. People Like Us
5. Four Walls and a Bullet
6. These Crappy Years
7. Lady of Amazing Disappointment
8. Love Boat
9. Woe Is Me
10. Barroom Floor
11. The Shape Of You (previously unreleased)
12. More Than A Day (previously unreleased)
13. Don’t Know What To Do With The Rain (previously unreleased)
14. Away (previously unreleased)
15. Baker, Ca.
Described by the LA Weekly as, “syrupy croon-and-swoon lounge ballads that work their way through your veins like a dark lethargic lullaby,” and by punk fanzine Flipside as having “…lyrics that will drag you down right to the gutter and then laugh as they kick you in the head,” Cuba Las Vegas was a bit of an anomaly in 1999. Best New Artist Nominees at the LA Weekly Awards that year were Black Eyed Peas, Queens of the Stone Age, Los Super Elegantes, Medusa and the Feline Science & Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948. Not a downtrodden lounge band in the bunch. But prior to the Y2K brouhaha, it was Cuba Las Vegas who brought the much need grit-n-ballads to the LA live music scene where they often brought the house down at Canter’s Kibbitz Room, The Whisky, Spaceland, the Dragonfly, Fais Do-Do and Goldfinger’s. A live set on KXLU prior to the millennium was also a high water mark.
Equal parts Gallon Drunk, Gun Club and Tindersticks, Cuba Las Vegas was fronted by Steve Dietrich (“The American Nick Cave,” Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Sax), Baron Norris (Bass), Warren Paine (Guitar, original album Producer), Eric Young (Piano, Keys, Background Vocals, Arranger), Katie Hecker Scheid (Percussion), Bob Roberts (Drums.) Together they craft and channel some of the greatest extreme & downtrodden lounge ballads of another era. Tracks like the sparse and bleak “Lucky” or the thrilling “A City Like This” wouldn’t be out of place next to Leonard Cohen’s “Coming Back To You” (Various Positions) or Marianne Faithful’s “No Moon In Paris” (Negative Capability). The lyrical darkness and the musical gravitas on These Crappy Years (Remastered) is almost impossible to deny. It’s the grime and the city solution found in municipal poetry like this that makes Cuba Las Vegas so hard to deny a reassessment in 2021, that they were at the end of the millennium.