A respect for their nation's ancestral and recent past are all evident within Caifanes' music, but they bring an artistic edge to their third album that changes the game
Mexican music is great. That might sound like an overly simplistic statement that requires some elaboration but when you have listened to as much music from around the world as I have, you will know that what I am saying is simply gospel. There are some nations in which there is just something in the water, or in the case of Mexico perhaps the copious amounts of Coca Cola they drink. However, when one thinks about Mexican music, their mind may immediately conjure up images sounds of traditional bands playing mariachi or salsa, or for those in the know one might picture the intense rock scene of the early 70s that led to Mexico’s very-own version of Woodstock in the Avándaro Festival. Whilst both of these depictions of Mexican music culture are very disparate from one another in some regards, what they both have in common is the fact that they tell an utterly important story in representing the nation from which they come. What Caifanes do on El Nervio Del Volcán is weave together the tradition of Mexican folklore, with the energy of fearless Mexican rockers that came before them, and brought it firmly into the 90s with modern stylings from an array of other genres.
“ It is obvious they are real characters of depth and it feels like their immense musical talent that they showcase has a greater purpose.”
I am of the first belief that an opening track on an album is like a band’s calling card. It is their elevator pitch to convince a potential listener take time out of their day to give their attention to their art. Now, I have to admit the first time I heard the album, I was so blown-away by the opening track that I was worried that the band had spunked their load on Afuera, with it being impossible to even listen to the rest of the album without thinking about how much I want to go back to listen to the opener. In some respects, that was true, Caifanes most certainly led with their finest of goods. However, after some time and patience, it became abundantly clear that Caifanes were not a one-trick pony, but rather a more fitting description could be musical geniuses, a term I don’t use lightly.
Whilst Afuera is a banger of the highest order, what I fund most impressive about it, is that it convinces you that you are in a stadium surrounded by thousands of other bouncing and singing along with you, no matter the context in which you listen to it. Some of the greatest rock artists struggle to get that feeling across in a studio recording of their tracks. Whilst the unique stadium rock feel quickly dissipates, on an intellectual and entertainment level, the band really do continue to succeed throughout the album. That is not to say that Caifanes don’t really rock on other tracks, with some of my favourites being Miedo and Aviéntame, which I much prefer over the likes of El Animal and El Año del Dragón.
However, the band really shine in their experimentation and playfulness, bringing other styles to the fore. Ballads like Ayer Me Dijo un Ave and La Llorona are to die, whilst slightly more surreal numbers like Hasta Que Dejes de Respirar and Quisiera Ser Alcohol have a certain charm to them. There is something complex about the individuals who make up Caifanes that can simply be noted by listening to their music. It is obvious they are real characters of depth and it feels like their immense musical talent that they showcase has a greater purpose. It is arguable that the way in which they really express their complexities is not just through the sounds but through the lyrics, which for a native Spanish speaker can at times read like poets splurging their thoughts without reprise. In other words, there is a great deal of social commentary on the album, often powerfully put, that due to its rhythm and flow can be missed due to the vast number of points they seem to express without allowing time for prior statements to sink in. As a recent convert to the Talking Heads, I can see numerous similarities, in that their work is art and if you don’t get it, that’s your problem but they will make sure you are entertained along the way regardless.