Spanish Love Songs at The Garage, 17/01/2024

A freezing Glasgow warms itself to LA's heartland punks as Spanish Love Songs cracks The Garage

California’s Spanish Love Songs formed in 2014 from a post on Craigslist looking for other lonely folk who wanted to go to punk gigs together.

Fast-forward eight years and four albums, and the grouch-rockers (their term) are a little less lonely – and a lot less punk. The excellent No Joy, released August 2023, features a more melodic mix of life-or-death confessionals, signalling a move towards the mainstream.

There’s no room for loneliness tonight: Glasgow’s Garage is packed with fans of all ages. Though the band are still small enough to do their own soundcheck, nobody here expects that to last. 

It’s unclear whose choice it is to come on to The Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’, but singer/guitarist Dylan Slocum shows a sense of humour that belies the darkness of the songs.

Spanish Love Songs perform at The Garage in Glasgow

‘Lifers’ kicks off a set of short, sharp bangers, with clever lyrics that delve into “the pain of simply being” delivered with passion. Throughout, Kyle McAulay is all hair and drama on lead guitar; multitasker Meredith Van Woert plays synth, synth bass and occasional acoustic guitar; and Ruben Duarte provides richly textured rolling drums. 

‘Losers’, from 2020’s Brave Faces Everyone, is another grown-up rocker that manages to sound upbeat despite itself, and it inspires a roomful of arms in the air. Slocum expresses how happy the band are to be in this “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful cold city”, despite the fact it’s -3 outside.

‘Clean-Up Crew’ comes on like The Killers, who they covered on 2023 EP Doom & Gloom Sessions, albeit with more nihilistic lyrics. “So f*ck the garden and the yard, I can barely tend to my own dreams,” sings Slocum, his voice cracking with emotion. “Maybe a big life isn’t ours? Shot down in the middle of the street.”

Spanish Love Songs perform at The Garage in Glasgow

“This is the best gig of the tour,” he says after, before confessing he said the same thing last night. But gradually he proves himself right. ‘I’m Gonna Miss Everything’ is genuinely moving, ‘The Boy Considers His Haircut’ funny and furious, and the one-two punch of ‘Marvel’ and ‘Haunted’ has the crowd bellowing along. “This is the best show of any tour we’ve ever done,” he finally admits. 

As if to prove it, ‘Routine Pain’ offers a tasting menu of anthemic misery, each new section a rousing singalong until, finally, guitar down, fist in the air, Slocum brings things to a close. With songs this good, maybe a big life might be theirs after all. 

Spanish Love Songs continue their UK tour until 28 January, before returning in July to support The Gaslight Anthem. Find tickets here.

Photo credit: Craig McConnell