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Cafe Society: Good songs translate into any language for Cafe Tacuba.

Speaking to the Soul

Mexico City rockers Cafe Tacuba reinvent themselves with each new album

By David Espinoza

THE SECRET TO going down as one of the greatest rock & roll bands of all time lies in the ability to constantly reinvent one's sound, to sculpt it, to allow the music to evolve. While the genre will forever have its fair share of artists who hit stardom like a lottery ticket only to crash and burn in a matter of years (Guns n' Roses, Nirvana), the bands who have made the biggest contributions have usually been the ones who have been able to produce exceptional albums year after year. It's an unspoken test most recently passed by Mexico's Cafe Tacuba.

At first, the reality that some of the best rock & roll bands of the past decade have not come out of English-speaking countries might be too much for many folks to swallow. Indeed, one could reason that without much radio airplay or press or music videos in the States to carry them, there isn't really a Latin rock explosion at all.

Even alternative radio stations, traditionally the arena for bands that don't fit anywhere else, have dragged their feet about doing Latin rock shows. This is their loss, though. What so many producers and DJs seem to miss is that music that speaks to the soul knows no language, for as someone once said, there are two kinds of songs: good songs and bad songs. Since 1989, Cafe Tacuba has been creating the former.

Starting off in a northern suburb of Mexico City, Cafe Tacuba's four members--Ruben Albarran, Emmanuel del Real, Joselo and brother Enrique Rangel--always seemed a little bit stranger than the average rockero band. Instead of following the staples of heavy electrified instruments, Tacuba used (and still does) classical acoustic guitars, standup basses and keyboards--all set to programmed drum-machine rhythms. Musically, the early Cafe Tacuba resembled New York's Talking Heads in innovation and all-around eclecticism.

While the group's 1992 self-titled debut turned many heads with its unprecedented mix of Mexican corridos, ballads, punk and ska, it was 1994's stunning Re that cemented the band's place in the minds of both critics and fans.

Easily one of the most schizophrenic albums of all time, the 20-track Re hit just about every genre under the sun, from the hardcore industrial "El Borrego" to the hyperkinetic banda "El Fin de la Infancia." Cafe Tacuba even included a number of gentle ballads like "Esa Noche," which proved that the members were as skilled at singing as they were at songwriting.

Just two months ago, Cafe Tacuba released its fourth album, the two-disc Reves/Yo Soy (Backwards/I Am). It is a more mature effort that brings to mind the Beatles' White Album. For the first time, the quartet has opted for a whole separate CD (Reves) to be dedicated to instrumental sounds, while the other (YoSoy) includes vocals.

As with past works, Tacuba seems to be almost an entirely different band each time it exits the studio. It's a talent that has kept them at the cutting edge of bands not just in Latin America but in the world as well.

Cafe Tacuba plays Wednesday (Nov. 10) at 8pm at the Usual, 400 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $20 dr/$17 adv. (408.535.0330)

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From the November 4-10, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. MetroActive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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