Mexican masters of music Maná prove their worth with an engaging and varied album, as well as an all-time great track for good measure
After lengthy research into the rock scenes in different countries across the world, it seems that Mexico, comparatively to other nations across the globe, is somewhat underrated for its endless number of superb rock artists. One could argue this may be because Mexicans have somewhat mastered a wide-range of genres, both traditional and modern, with artists at the top of their game in the pop, ska, and alternative scenes, as well as in the more stereotypically ‘Latin’ genres, Mexico is therefore not as heralded for its rock scene as a nation like Argentina might perhaps be. Regular readers of 200worldalbums.com will soon enough be blessed with a plethora of rock albums that we will recommend you from Mexico, but for now, you must wait.
“...the album is superb and though Mexico might have more to offer with undiluted rock, the band’s poppy sensibility and successful experimentalism makes it more than worthy of a listen.”
Though not an out and out rock band, Maná, are one of the nation’s best-selling artists and for good reason too. Mexico’s dominance in numerous different musical styles is reflected in their fifth and arguably most successful album, Sueños Líquidos, where they weave together numerous sounds under the label of rock. Whether this is rock music or not, is almost besides the point. What is certainly undisputed is that it is great music which makes their immense popularity across the entire region of Latin America completely unsurprising. There does, however, exist a problem on the album. There is a song of such supremely high quality that it could easily fool you into thinking the band are merely a one-hit wonder. Listen closely and you’ll realise the band have hidden depths.
The track I am referring to is of course Clavado en un bar. Within seconds of my first listen to the track it was clear it is going to be a good song, but then something unholier than thou happens in the filthy build up to the chorus, which somehow tricks the listener into thinking the song has peaked. Then comes the chorus – audio gold. I became so obsessed with the track that after the first listen to the album as a whole, I found myself playing the song over and over again on repeat for weeks. To say the song rocks is an understatement. If you don’t have time for the rest of the album, then at least check this song out. You won’t regret it.
Whilst I found myself somewhat side-tracked by the song and actually somewhat more critical of the other high-energy tracks on the album as they simply cannot compete, for example Róbame el alma felt like they were being greedy going for another hit but was of course comparatively underwhelming after Clavado en un bar, the album has much else to offer. There are an array of tracks with a fiery Latin feel to them which distinguishes the band from many other Mexican artists’ mimicking of American and British rock bands to create carbon copies for home audiences. Tu tienes lo que quiero has a brilliant salsa beat which makes me want to get my dancing shoes on, Como te extraño corazón has an obvious Cuban son beat, whilst Ámame hasta que me muera is so traditional in its feel I can hardly believe it features on a rock album.
Meanwhile, there are a selection of ballads and softer tracks which are by no means boring. En el muelle de San Blas is truly heart-warming, Me voy a convertir en un ave is unique for its rhythms almost evocative of the jungle at the start, and Cómo dueles en los labios is great not only for its beautiful harmonising but the wonderful flute that makes an appearance on the track. The inclusion of atypical rock instruments on the album is something I truly love and I think sets the band apart. The funky Un lobo por tu amor begins with an harmonica which is a fantastic reminder of my favourite artist of all-time Stevie Wonder, whilst the insertion of trumpets in the lyrically sweet La sirena make it sound like it has been ripped directly from an obscure Beatles B-Side.
Despite my slightly tongue-in-cheek prejudice towards Maná’s more energetic tracks due to their runaway success with Clavado en un bar, I must admit that aside from that track they are probably at their most memorable when their music sounds like rock. Chamán is a strong new-wave tune, whilst the opener Hechicera is a belter. It opens with Fher Olvera’s wailing vocals that makes him sound like he is almost pleading to God. Then a groovy bass line comes in, and you feel like you are navigating the streets of Mexico City around dusk after really achieving something. It is a truly special sentiment they manage to evoke. Overall, the album is superb and though Mexico might have more to offer with undiluted rock, the band’s poppy sensibility and successful experimentalism makes it more than worthy of a listen.