On Kolpez Kolpe,Kortatu comes of age with the first-ever rock release in Euskadi (that’s the Basque language), and the brothers Fermin and Iñigo Muguruza initiated the connection with guitar and engineering whiz Kaki Arkarazo, who would soon lead to Negu Gorriak. Kolpez Kolpe represents a quantum leap in almost every respect — particularly in recorded sound quality and more sophisticated songwriting — from Kortatu’s punk, D.I.Y., learn-to-play-as-you-go origins. Which hardly means they’ve lost the ability to rock out in very convincing fashion.
The triumphal chords on “After-Boltxebike” show that Fermin Muguruza and Iñigo Muguruza have absorbed the Who-Clash school of magnetic riffs — it’s a killer opener. And the short, savage “Gernika 37-87″ rips and snorts, powered by drums and chopped up chorus licks. Both “Etxerat!” and “Platinozoko Suddurak” work off the “You Can’t Hurry Love”/Bo Diddley beat riff, the former with horns, the latter acquiring a trad Basque flavor when an accordion slips in near the end.
“Denboraren Menpe” is excellent with a killer runaway train guitar riff — it takes off when the double track comes in — and the way the horn section briefly comes in mid-song before that riff takes the song home is a sure sign of their new maturity. While the sledgehammer AC/DC chords and grinding bass throb to kick off “A.E.K. ‘Ko Veteranoak” foreshadow early Negu Gorriak’s near-rap attack and the title track is acceptable reggae, they do drag a little. But only momentarily: “Oker Nago” revs up the skank-to-R&B attack again with great horn fills answering Fermin Muguruza’s vocals and “Makurtu Gabe” closes with another anthemic Clash-style riff.
Kortatu is a great band that broke up to become an even greater band, and Kolpez Kolpe is a pretty great disc; the best place to start with the group’s studio output. But the best better-value-for-money introduction to Kortatu is still the live Azken Guda Dantza featuring nine of these ten tracks, 16 more, and all the atmosphere surrounding a band that seemingly lived to play live pumping up the volume in front of a hometown crowd. – Don Snowden