Havalina’s one of those great bands to review simply because you can throw out nearly every genre imaginable, and chances are they’ve touched on it at some point in their discography. And A Bullfighter’s Guide to Space and Love is yet another worthy addition to their already prolific catalog. But while previous albums have seen Havalina explore everything from lounge to swing to Russian folk to country-western (and all with equal skill and aplomb, I might add), A Bullfighter’s Guide to Space and Love doesn’t immediately come off as eclectic and “out-there” as their previous releases.
Although this might be the most “straightforward” Havalina release in recent memory, calling any Havalina release “straightforward” is a bit of a misnomer. If anything, Havalina’s toned down their eclecticism to show us that there really are great songs beneath Havalina’s musical quirks.
If there is one thing that feels different, though, it’s the farfisa’s prominence throughout the album. And that’s what adds the “space” that the EP’s title mentions. This is especially true on the 8-minute “You Got Me Cry’n,” where the farfisa breaks away from the rest of the instruments for an extended freak-out. Recorded live, it makes one wonder why a recording of one of the band’s legendary Cornerstone performances hasn’t been released yet.
But the EP’s standout track is it’s most reserved. If you know anything about the band, you know they’ve had a tumultuous history — multiple lineup changes, distribution woes, and all manner of tour setbacks — but the band has weathered on. So when Wignall sings “These are the worst days of my life/Sometimes I think I’d rather die,” his weary voice imbues those simple words with the weight of someone who really knows of what he sings.
Hopefully, those days will soon be over for the band. They recently (re-)signed to Tooth & Nail Records, who will be putting out their upcoming full-length, Space, Love & Bullfighting. Maybe it’s the label’s way of apologizing for all of the pop-punk they’ve released in recent years. Or maybe it’s a sign that all things do work together for good, because Lord knows that Havalina certainly deserves a better chance for their music to be heard. And A Bullfighter’s Guide to Space and Love is yet another reason why.