Calva Louise – Rhinoceros

Calva Louise's debut album grimaces with hope and zips by with fuzzy electricity

Album Review by George Sully | 01 Feb 2019
  • Calva Louise – Rhinoceros
Album title: Rhinoceros
Artist: Calva Louise
Label: Modern Sky
Release date: 1 Feb

In many ways, London trio Calva Louise have assembled a factory-grade punk album for their debut Rhinoceros. A taut 30 minutes, its ten tracks zip by with fuzzy electricity, packed with cymbal-heavy drums, delicious chords and a full-battery vocal from frontwoman Jess Allanic. They switch up speeds, retreating from the high-octane intro I Heard a Cry to more mid-tempo offerings (Tug of War, Wondertale) and thoughtful head-nodders (Getting Closer, Down the Stream). Coated in oohs, FX and distortion, the record’s production by Margo Broom (Fat White Family, Goat Girl) is rich and textured. A tight debut, ticking all the boxes; job's done.

But while the ‘Louise’ in Calva Louise was chosen by bassist and Frenchman Alizon Taho just because he liked it, ‘calva’ means ‘bald’ in Spanish (Allanic is Venezuelan) and is a knowing reference to The Bald Soprano by Romanian-French playwright Eugène Ionesco. A pioneering avant-garde absurdist, Ionesco is known for his 1959 satire Rhinoceros, a warning klaxon against conformism and the insidious spread of fascism (people start turning into rhinos, basically). Not an accidental choice of album title, then, against today’s backdrop of worldwide far-right resurgence.

Though it’s not a political album by any means. And for all its nods to absurdist theatre, Rhinoceros is a sincere declaration of the trials of becoming an adult, and the scariness and unpredictability of the world. These are timeless themes, even if today’s youth are entering a particularly volatile and divisive era. I’m Gonna Do Well is a fun, potent wail of optimism; Tug of War has Allanic yelling 'Don’t hate yourself / Try to get away ‘cause you can'; Getting Closer’s choruses become full-on screams. It’s a record grimacing with hope.

When the world is falling to shit, we need the youthful verve of bands like Calva Louise to give a little light.

Listen to: I Heard a Cry, Getting Closer