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Viva España

It’s a dry, cold, early December night on Newcastle’s legendary quayside. Nestled low between the high-level bridge and the swing bridge sits the Riverside, where tonight we’re going to experience a small slice of Spanish sunshine.

Inside the venue the stage backdrop reads “Hi we’re Hinds and we came here to rock”. As a statement of intent it leaves little room for doubt and we know from the band’s two albums that this is no idle boast. The crowd is a mixed one, slightly more male than female, slightly more young than old, but as it soon becomes apparent, the vast majority of them have also arrived with a similar intention to rock.

The band arrive on stage a tad earlier than anticipated, and, amidst a couple of early ‘string issues’, Carlotta steps forward, welcomes us to the show, explains that they’re a band from Madrid, and we’re very swiftly, and very noisily, under way. What’s blindingly obvious from the outset is that this isn’t one of those gigs where the band ‘phones in’ their performance; it’s the last night of their UK tour, but they crack into it like their very lives depended upon it. It’s a potent mix of urgent drumming, Jonathan Richman guitar and downright attitude, and the crowd, rather unsurprisingly, approve. Heads nod and feet move, particularly when ‘San Diego’, ‘British Mind’ and crowd-pleaser ‘Tester’ arrive.

And the nodding heads become heads nodded in approval, when Ade announces that they’re going to treat us to a cover of The Clash classic ‘Spanish Bombs’. Simultaneously mind-blowing and heart-warming, it’s difficult to imagine a cover version more perfectly suited to this band, this night and this atmosphere.

During the encore, Carlotta climbs onto the venue’s bar to sing and dance, before re-joining the rest of the band for the gig’s rousing closer, ‘New for You’.

They weren’t kidding when they said that they came here to rock.

And if, like me, Hinds have left you hankering for more Spanish guitar bands with attitude, then maybe I can point yours ears in the direction of the spikey, indie sound of Los Nastys, the boisterous Los Vinagres and The Parrots, who rock with a surfier, more psychedelic vibe.

When I cast my net more widely I came across three more diverse artists, all meriting further delving. I’ll start with Betacam, whose 2018 album Mitico plunders synthy 1980s influences like Falco and Nik Kershaw, navigating this source material with rather more style than you might imagine possible. The whole album is a retro delight, but I would suggest ‘Extraterrestre’ or ‘La Discusion’ as the best places to start.

If a combination of power pop, J-Pop, Stereolab and retro computer game noises are more your thing, then you simply have to catch Madrid based Axolotes Mexicanos. Short, punchy, teeth-rotting tunes are scattered liberally throughout their most recent album Salu2. ‘Trececatorce’, ‘Debora Tartas’ and ‘Heavens Gate’ have quickly become firm favourites.

And if you’re looking for something that’s a touch more obviously Spanish I would steer you in the considerably more well-trodden direction of Rosalia. This Pharrell collaborating, double Latin Grammy award winning flamenco singer is about as far away from Hinds as it’s possible to get. Her 2018 album El Mal Querer has troubled the outskirts of some of the year’s ‘best of’ lists and if you’ve never listened to a flamenco concept album before (and you might be surprised to hear that I hadn’t), then now is the perfect time to break your duck.

If this idea fills you with dread, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you start with one of the more accessible pop touchstones on the album, ‘Bagdad (Cap 7: Liturgia)’ which borrows big chunks from Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry me a River’. I kid you not.

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