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La Chinga | Beyond the Sky

The Vancouver power trio deliver their third blast of retro-rock with plenty of joie-de-freaking vivre.

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Several years ago, I was chatting with Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar about Van Halen’s impact on rock. The secret to their sound, he believed — and the element that most of their inept followers and pale imitators always failed to grasp or reproduce — had nothing to do with Eddie’s game-changing fretwork, David Lee Roth’s horndog swagger or even the band’s precise blend of hooky heaviness. For Johnson, it was much simpler than that: It was the joy. The exuberance. The joie-de-freaking-vivre inherent in every single note Van Halen played. That’s why it’s virtually impossible to listen to them to this day without smiling. I was reminded of that while spinning La Chinga’s third album Beyond the Sky. Not because the Vancouver power-trio sound anything like VH. They don’t. Not even slightly. If anything, their particular blend and brand of ’70s-inspired rock continues to cross the crunching boogie and leering screech of AC/DC with the menacing blues and funk grooves of Aerosmith and the godlike majesty of Led Zeppelin. And on these 11 cuts, they effectively and creatively mix, match and meld those pieces into authentic-sounding throwbacks to the glory days of 8-track tapes, muscle cars, bell bottoms, black-light posters and lava lamps. But all of that aptitude is nothing without the right attitude. And that is the special sauce these guys bring to the table — and the thing that sets them apart from so many of their dour brethren. The air-guitar riffs, the cowbell-plonk drums, the Bon Scott vocals, the stoner-teen lyrics about death riders, warlords, killer wizards and boogie mamas — they’re all delivered with the perfect winking balance of earnestness, exhilaration and enthusiasm. Not to mention plenty of joie-de-freaking-vivre. In short: They get it. Which is why you should get Beyond the Sky. Simple as that.