Rhythm & Views 

Chango Malo

Say what you want about Tucson's local music scene: It seems that people always want to put it down, kick it around and send it rolling down the stairs. But even if you feel that way, there is one thing you just can't deny: Chango Malo is Tucson's hardest-working band.

Single-handedly, they are creating a solid music scene here that, with enough enthusiasm, heart and perseverance, might just make Tucson more influential musically. Alas Poor Lucy, Chango Malo's first full-length record, has symbolic value in that it's the musical equivalent of what the band is doing for the music scene--a sort of 14-song extended metaphor.

The members of Chango Malo have been playing together under various names, give or take a few members, since high school. Back then, we used to have a music club (aptly called the Music Club) that had a concert of members' musical projects at the end of every school year. Interestingly enough, several members of that little club are the very same people you see on the local stages most every weekend, most of the members of Chango Malo included. Even then, those guys would play crazy loud funk-rock that would make even the squarest classical musicians in the club tap their feet.

Over the years, Ian, Quin, Jericho, Justin, Ryan and David pieced together enough styles of rock music to create the smorgasbord sound that Chango Malo calls its own; song to song, and verse to chorus, Chango Malo can switch style, tone and mood without so much as an irregular beat or missed note. Since they have a full arsenal of musical instruments to rock out on (David plays saxophone, and Jon Villa from the Jons adds trumpet on a few tracks), their songs don't rely on one melody or hook to move forward. Subsequently, the songs may not be immediately recognizable, or catchy, or predictable in any way, even if you've seen the band live 100 times. Chango Malo are not out to make their music simple. They know what they're doing, and they do it damn well.

"Pied Piper of Rock" starts off sounding strangely like the underground music from Super Mario Bros., and then explodes into a screaming yelling tantrum of drums, only to calm down with, of all things, hand claps. By the time Quin sings "To the top, to the top!" (a follow-me-girl-and-I'll-make-you-a-star story), the song is pulsing-loud angry and ends with lots of cymbals and a freakishly long guitar solo. Chango Malo are never at a loss for clever song titles-- "Fucking Wheat Thins" and "Put Down the Pie" are two examples--but the lyrics reflect a more somber sensibility than the titles might suggest. As Quin sings in "Dufrane Larue," "Why brood over details."

Not only can Chango Malo blend together a bunch of genres in one song and make it all work (jazzy sax and trumpet and then hardcore guitar--think Bitches Brew as a speed metal record), they can gather together a bunch of local musicians and make them all get along. Alas Poor Lucy is the Changos' third recording (The Business of Fancy Dancing and The Septic Style are their first two EPs) released on their very own Stunning Tonto label. In theory, in order for a town to have a vital music scene, three elements need to be present: good bands, good places to play and a good label/organizing force to pull everyone together and help everyone release records. In much the same way Alas Poor Lucy switches gears song to song, creating a cohesive whole out of the sum of its many parts, Stunning Tonto's roster of bands varies from power punk to introspective rock. They're kind of like a family of adopted and foster kids, with Chango Malo as the cool parent units: Everyone's related through association. Through association, all the parts of Alas Poor Lucy make up one big happy family, diverse 21st-century American style--fucked up and all the better for it.

More by Annie Holub


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