Archive for October, 2010
It’s pretty easy to get lost in your own national music scene. Sure, there’s some international crossover, but it tends to follow pretty well-trodden, mostly linguistic, paths. American bands predominate, the British do quite well for themselves and Canadian nip at various heels. Throw in the odd Irish or Australian band, and you pretty much have the Top 50 covered in any English-speaking country.
I think sometimes that gives us as English speakers some sense that ours is the only music out there. Okay, we recognise that things like Tuvan throat singing and Eastern European accordion music exist, but we somehow think we have a monopoly on straight up, balls out rock and roll. We are, in many ways, wrong. We do it well, as originators and as honers of the craft. However, rock and roll draws on many inspirations – tribal drumming, swamp blues, and, um, kabuki – and creates a sonic soup that shouldn’t be limited to the 400 million suckers of us that can’t be bothered to learn another language beyond the words ‘¿Hablas inglés?’.
Because I also like to Panic (although I do mine in English), my attention was recently drawn to an excellent Chilean band named Panico, who’ve been kicking around since 1994, but have only recently come to the wider attention of the English speaking world. Hailing from Chile, the band trades in an exciting mix of punk rock and mambo rhythms in a subtle enough way that it doesn’t become gimmicky. They play straight up rock and roll, which is not to say that Panico just apes its influences, nor to say that it ignores its Chilean routes. In 2001, the band relocated to Paris, and their 2005 release Subliminal Kill got them enough notice to land a support slot for Franz Ferdinand. Their new album, Kick, is out now on Chemikal Underground Records, and it’s well worth a listen or seven. I’m not that familiar with the band’s previous work or its history, but I’ve got to say, I’m impressed that they’ve been around for 16 years and can still kick up a fuss like this. It starts off in a pleasant, relatively low-key way, with Illumination sounding a bit like a beefed up Low Rider. Things quickly reach boiling point though, with Bright Lights considerably ramping up the urgency and revealing the bands punkier sound. Loud drums clank through stabs of guitar, making for an early album highlight. Reverberation Mambo is another great track, which is danceable and still rocks. See hipsters, it’s possible to do both! (although maybe being from a funkier nation helps). Guadalupe is another highlight for me, as it brings a bit of an industrial touch to proceedings. The album lags a bit at the end however, closing on the relatively sedate and draggy notes of Distant Shore.
Too often it seems that ‘foreign’ (ie. non-English) bands either choose to downplay their roots and sound American (the Hives) or else play up their roots to the point of pastiche (Flogging Molly). It’s nice to see bands like Panico that walk the fine line between making their own cultural voice while still playing by the (shredded, bloody) rulebook of rock and roll. Or, maybe they’re making their own rock and roll voice while still playing by the rulebook of their culture. I don’t know, but I know it sounds good and it sounds distinct. As somebody who focuses more on music than lyrics, it isn’t even too big a hindrance that I’m a moron when it comes to foreign languages.
On that note, for reasons of friendship and a general kinship with the siesta, I have been listening to a glut of Spanish-language music lately. So, this week let’s travel to the Spanish speaking countries! Hey, at least the weather’s better there…Also, hurray for Chilean miners! Goddamn, sometimes it’s just nice to have a HAPPY story in the news….
Andrés Calamaro – one of Argentina’s favourite rock songwriters apparently, I’ve also been told that you should be able to understand his lyrics to fully appreciate his brilliance. No doubt, but he’s a nice listen regardless.
Christina Rosenvinge – She’s a Spaniard born to a Danish father and English mother, and she’s got a bit of the icy Nico sound to her. She does it with a more pleasing voice though and it works best when she juxtaposes it with a bit of a harsher musical palate. She’s kind of like a Spanish Charlotte Gainsbourg. Or maybe Charlotte Gainsbourg is the French Christina Rosenvinge. I don’t want to step on any nationalistic toes here.
Nacho Vegas – He’s worked with Christina Rosenvinge (to great effect) and also has his own prolific solo career. He’s another one who probably works better if you speak Spanish, but again, you can enjoy it regardless.
Ectoplasma – I had a hard time finding any information on this guy, but he’s sort of fun. I mean, look at the picture!
Enrique Bunbury – He’s worked with Nacho Vegas as well, and is well known for his work with Héroes del Silencio. He’s carved out his own solo career since.
Los Planetas – These guys, apparently, are the epitome of Spanish indie. They’re also good, and don’t look half as stupid as many English indie bands.
Migala – Without lyrics, are they really Spanish? Well, yes, of course. They remind me of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Schwarz – Another great, post-rock kind of band, but a little more psychedelic.
Sidonie – I think these guys want to party, and what’s wrong with that? I have been told that parties are a fun way to pass the time.
Mano Negra & Manu Chao – It seems remiss to end this post without mentioning these classics of Spanish (and world) punk/rock music. They’re both worth checking out, Mano Negra (Manu Chao’s original band) for their tuneful aggression and Manu Chao for his eclectic mashing of styles.
Triangulo de Amor Bizarro – Oh, those loveable scamps, Spain-ifying New Order, although their music draws more on shoegaze. Also, I should point out that they’re actually from Galicia, which is like Spain but different (kind of like how Alberta is like Canada, but different).*
See you next time!
* I’m sure this sentence will cause me much grief if any Galician or Albertan actually reads this post.