Being a rock en español fan here in the United States is frustrating, watching band after band get signed to major labels, only to be left twisting in the wind, victims of politics and poor marketing. Worse has been the false promise of the success of crossover artists like J-Lo, Ricky Martin and Shakira, which hasn't led to recognition for more talented, authentic Latin musicians.
However, there is hope--according to a recent article in The New York Times, a new wave of rock en español groups, like Mexico City's Los Dynamite, are gaining fans here, thanks to MySpace. The fact that Los Dynamite sings in English and sounds more like Interpol than their '80s forefathers, Caifanes, doesn't hurt.
Tucson's horn-driven rockers The Jons, opening for Los Amigos Invisibles last Friday night at the Rialto Theatre, must have had their brain waves tuned parallel to Los Dynamite; their last two CDs have only included one song in Spanish, "Holy's Gay," written by Jons bassist Ricky Custudio in his early teens.
Originally from Nogales, The Jons have more in common with The Beatles, Chicago, Elvis Costello and The Who than Mano Negra (though they covered MN's "Indios de Barcelona"). A new tune, "You Should Know," was so Who-like, all that was missing was Townshend's guitar-windmilling and the chant, "It's only teenage wasteland." Incidentally, Jons drummer James Peters will be doing preproduction in France for the next two months with hot-shit producers for an upcoming Jons CD. Can't get much farther from Nogales than downtown Paris!
The previously seat-warming crowd finally got up to shake their boo-tays to Los Amigos Invisibles' 90-minute dance party. The Venezuelan band (now based in New York) are one of the few groups that can blend multiple genres (acid-jazz, disco, salsa, bossa nova, techno, new wave, rock) without sounding gimmicky or ridiculous. (Not counting the tongue-in-cheek, cheesy analog-synth homages to '70s cop-show theme songs.)
LAI's secret is simple: They write solid, upbeat songs with catchy hooks that transcend language barriers. Plus, they're clever enough to have sing-along, repetitive choruses in English, as on the playfully dirty "Sexy," "El Disco Anal" and "Superfucker."
Though the more traditional, Latin-flavored cuts off 1998's The New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera were the most popular of the night, I hope the Times is right, and more new sounds make their way across the border in 2007.