After years spent sailing on salt-air riffs, California’s favorite sons, Allah-las change gears, working their way towards glam touches that rough up their usual bucolic bliss. That’s not to say that the album is wholly acerbic, trading the Las’ niceties for a full-tilt dose of punk nihilism, but anything formed and forged in 2020 is bound to have a bit of a numbness baked into the batch. What seems to work best on Zuma 85 is when the band skates the curb of caustic and casual — the fuzzed guitars and Numan-adjacent delivery of “Right On Time,” that mix with an equal dose of sunshine harmonies, the post-punk clip of “La Rue,” pillowed into fog in the chorus, or the vamp of opener “The Stuff” that still lets in just a touch of the band’s signature slouch.

The band joins a few others this year (Woods, Mapache) in making Panoramic House the setting for their latest opus, with the studio starting to become a Mecca for those looking to embrace serenity while casting wider circles in sound. With Jeremy Harris and Jarvis Taveniere behind the boards, the album wraps the specter of West Coast calm in hives and hackles. For every comforting curl like “Pattern,” the band counters with a motorik itch like “GB BB.” For every “Jelly” there’s a “Smog Cutter.” Zuma 85 doesn’t exactly blow up the band’s past, but for a group that’s long been consistent in crafting albums that are as much predicated on building vibe as they are on showcasing prowess, the shift towards an uneven tone is brave indeed. It’s hard to let go of the the love of the band’s laconic past, but the seeds of something are growing on Zuma 85, an unrest that’s building, but hasn’t yet broken. It remains to be seen if Allah-Las will let it grow into a sonic tsunami in the next phase, or crest and pull us out with the undertow.

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