July 19, 2024

Rodrigo Y Gabriela – Mettavolution – still bright and fresh and ambitious

BMG 26th April 2019

It’s unfortunate that the main press Rodrigo Y Gabriela get is for their cover versions. They are a victim of their own marketing, having initially been promoted on the back of their covers of Metallica, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead songs. With a history of busking (and what better than an acoustic guitar duo for that), this Mexican duo have traded on their extremely approachable use of Spanish guitar stylings on hard rock classics. The USP of this release is a side-long cover of Pink Floyd’s Echoes – of which, more later.

First off the snappy and fun first side. Rattling along on twin guitars, the duo manage all rhythm, lead, voicings and percussion with their two guitars. Running on tapped wooden guitar bodies, strummed strings and tight picking, the pair make a full sound. With Gabriela on amazing rhythm and Rodrigo on lead, the stylings of classical Spanish guitar get fused to traditional sounds of Flamenco, pop and rock. Pleasing guitar aficionados as well as hard rockers, the only annoyed folks are going to be stylistic puritans. Six originals make up the first side, road-tested on their many live dates over the last couple of years and distilled from their twenty years of experience, they are all cogent examples of solid tune writing allied to a sharp knowledge of flash playing and showing off. Making for finger tapping and a spot of air guitar, these bring a smile to the lips.

The main course, for many, is the audacious twenty-minute cover of Flyd’s Echoes. From the Meddle album, where Pink Floyd were just about to reach their very most accessible period with Dark Side Of The Moon feet and their route to the heart of AOR-land., Echoes is epic, lyrical, progressive, pretentious and ought to scare off most bands. Inherent in the way we hear this is Water’s bass and Gilmour’s expressive lead guitar. Tossing that aside, the duo dispense with vocals and do their best to avoid David Gilmour’s phrasing. Rodrigo’s speedy and light picking is distinctively voiced here and powerful propulsion comes from Gabriela. They don’t stick slavishly to the original and allow themselves to thread their own way though the stages of the tune, even dropping off into a little spacey exploration, but not enough to lose their love of the beat. It is less a cover than a reinterpretation – instead of big and smooth as Floyd played it, it becomes small and taut and exploratory.

Essentially, this duo still sound like thrash-rock fans who like to play Spanish guitar, have played relentlessly till totally fluent, and their love for both the material and the medium is ever-evident.

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