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article imageAllah-Las, rockers of California cool caught in furor

By Shaun TANDON (AFP)     Aug 24, 2017 in World

The Allah-Las, the band at the center of an attack plot foiled by Dutch police, have won a following with their suave psychedelic rock but been dogged by controversy over their name.

With dreamy, never-hurried guitar-driven songs, the four-piece indie band from Los Angeles projects California calm and cool and would have roused little controversy -- yet alone an international security incident -- had the group called itself something else.

Dutch police said Wednesday they had foiled an attack on a concert planned by the Allah-Las in Rotterdam after a tip-off from Spain, where 15 people died last week in twin vehicle attacks by Islamist extremists.

The Allah-Las, whose show was called off, thanked Dutch police in a statement to AFP and declined further comment.

Ever since achieving greater prominence, the nearly 10-year-old band -- a critical favorite in indie rock publications -- has been on the defensive over its name.

Some hardline Muslims find it blasphemous to say Allah, the Arabic word for God, in the context of music or entertainment.

The band has acknowledged receiving complaints in the past, with a previous show called off in Turkey, but said it had meant no offense.

Singer and guitarist Miles Michaud in a recent interview explained that the name juxtaposed "Allah" with "Shangri-La" -- the mythical Buddhist utopia in the Himalayas imagined by Westerners.

The Shangri-La reference was "kind of a nod to California kitsch" and "very tongue-in-cheek," while "Allah" marked the Orientalism often found in California, he said.

"A lot of California architecture and layout, palm trees in California, are a result of the Orientalist movement," he said in an interview with concert promoter AXS.

"Also, it just sounds musical, Allah-Las. It sounds like a song," he said.

The band has said the moniker's mishmash of allusions was also an homage to The Jesus and Mary Chain, the influential Scottish noise-rock band.

- 'No more mystery' -

Drummer Matthew Correia in a separate interview said the Allah-Las also did not want to over-explain its name.

"Pre-internet if you loved an album you had to dissect and decrypt all the lyrics and everything written on the front and back cover or maybe bug your local grumpy record store employee for more information and meaning," he told the music blog Tomatrax.

"There's just no more mystery anymore," he said.

The band itself is rooted in vinyl culture. The member met while working at Amoeba Records, the vast store on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard that is a favorite of audiophiles.

While the band's attitude owes much to the poised hipness of garage rock, the Allah-Las' sound has a classic LA vibe with guitar harmonies creating a psychedelic haze reminiscent of The Doors.

The band last year recorded its third and latest album, "Calico Review," at the newly reopened Valentine Recording Studio, the celebrated California music hub where the Allah-Las used some of the equipment on which The Beach Boys made their classic "Pet Sounds."

Controversial names are not new in music, with the Canadian neo-punk band Preoccupations last year changing its name from Viet Cong after people of Asian descent charged cultural appropriation.

One of the best-known albums by The Grateful Dead, another legendary California band whose influence can be heard in the Allah-Las, was 1975's "Blues for Allah," while Jus Allah is the name of a successful East Coast rapper.

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