Gran Pantalla is the third LP from Spain’s Biznaga. It’s predecessor, Sentido Del Espectáculo, was quite successful in Spain and numero tres comes with the lofty promise in the press material as “If Joe Strummer were actually from Granada, The Clash would have sounded something like this.” It’s also the band’s first record featuring collaborative songwriting, instead of each writer contributing their own material along the journey.
Of course it doesn’t live up to The Clash, because that’s just silly. But for somebody with an elementary grasp of the Spanish language and an ear for The Clash, I do enjoy this.
Gran Pantalla translates to “Big Screen.” This pulls from many, many sources. It’s almost always forward-moving and energetic. It’s not high strung or concise, necessarily, but with a clear trajectory. It’s has that unspoken “headed for the finish line” vibe of a band like The Marked Men, though few sonic similarities. Musically I’d say it fits somewhere in the middle between The Clash (I had to) and modern, midtempo anthemic sounds like The Menzingers – it’s ’77 punk without the crunchy guitars. It’s familiar, but never derivative or predictable. It fits the punk template, but with extra flourish and variety. In other words, the songs are 3-4 minutes instead of 1-2.
One of the things that stands out to me the most on this record is that it’s not built for the singalong. Unless that’s just my takeaway as a non-Spanish speaker, this is defined by the rhythm section and the guitar tunings more than a big cathartic chorus. To me it seems like vocalist Álvaro is playing around with convention in a sense, letting the guitars take those emotive leads and using his voice as an instrument instead. The production certainly influences that takeaway, with everything mixed evenly. Lead guitar and vocals carry the songs, while the percussion provides a sense of urgency.
This is a lot of words about tone without getting into the real “what’s it actually sounds like” descriptions. “2K20” is a good example. It starts in a ’77 punk key with some bark and bite in the vocals and a familiar timbre. About halfway through, it shifts tempos, rebuilding the momentum with call-and-response vocals that give dynamic depth over a forceful rhythm section. Up next is “Produccion de Sentido 24-7,” which is more urgent and direct without the dramatic flair.
“Adorno” is a nice showcase of Biznaga’s variety. The tempo changeup includes a slow-motion-singalong feel at the chorus that’s impressive in how it captures both emotion and conveys energy. It’s almost ominous at times. “Error 404” is a little more dramatic, and then the record gets a bit more traditional at its close. “Atentado” is the second-to-last track and it features both a big singalong chorus and those hold-the-mic-at-the-crowd vibes that we all eat up. Then “Ultimo Episodio” keeps it going, pulling more ’77 influence to end on a big note. Biznaga certainly pull from a deep well of influence, but it forges into their own unique sound. While I mentioned drama more than once, the music has a genuine and proletarian feel throughout: it’s emotional but without melodrama. The even keel production helps balance the emotional buildup, serving as a counterweight at those emotional highs.
The production is definitely more suited to a 12” vinyl with a little bit of dusty crackle and warmth. Gran Pantalla bleeds energy and its heart is organic, analog and real.