10 Rock en Español Albums to Listen to Before You Die
7. Hola/Chau, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs
I was never into the Argentine group as much as I was supposed to, if only because I caught them at the end of their career, when they were going through the motions. And I'm actually a bigger fan of lead singer Vicentico's solo efforts. But when they were on, they were on, and the proof is in this live double-album, a recording of their final concert before breaking up--that is, before the incessant pleas of nostalgia by fans had them reunite a couple of years ago, to middling results. You just don't get the greatest hits (like "El Matador," perhaps the first rock en español song to cross over when it appeared in Grosse Point Blank) but the rush of tens of thousands of fans and a rejuvenation of the war horses, if only for a night.
6. Clandestino, Manu Chao
This album is the Exodus of Latin alternative, spun to annoying death by by progressive gabachos who think they're down for la causa because they once attended a Chao concert in Europe, or because they once had a Chicana girlfriend who introduced them to it. Clandestino is so overplayed at this point by pendejos that I have a visceral reaction to it of nausea, just like I did to the Beach Boys for years because K-Earth spins them so much. And this sucks, because Chao's 1998 effort (damn, 1998 was a banner year for the genre, ¿qué no?) is a bona fide masterpiece: a pastiche on the underclass underscored by reggae, comedy (this song, "Welcome to Tijuana" bashes Mexican politicians and American imperialism, all with Herb Alpert brass) political rallying points, seemingly random audio excerpts, annoying voices, and all other sorts of music and philosophies absorbed by the gypsy-esque Chao. Honestly, this album should be higher on the list--but I still need to be deprogrammed from hating it.
5. Hijos del Culo, Bersuit Vergarabat
I maintain that Bersuit is the most underrated rock en español group of them all, an anarchic collective ala Ozomatli except raunchier, better, wilder and smarter. Their live shows at the late, great JC Fandango were the stuff of legend, almost always ending with lead singer Gustavo Cordera commanding all the honeys to join him on stage and strut their stuff while their guys remained on the dance floor, slamming into each other silly. So why didn't they get more exposure ala Soda Stereo and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs? It's because they were stubbornly provincial, sticking to Argentine lingo and musical traditions that the rest of Latin America never bothered to learn, then smash them silly with punk and metal. Even more crucially, their song subjects are almost universally about Argentina in the 1990s and early 2000s, a Grand Guignol of a collapsing economy, corrupt government officials, the destroyed society that arose as a result, and the never-disappearing legacy of los desaparecidos of the Dirty War always lurking in the background. Their most famous song, "Señor Cobranza," essentially accused then-President Carlos Menem of being a drug dealer; their best song, "La Argentinidad al Palo" (which translates as "Hard-Core Argentinian" but literally means "A Boner for Argentina") is as great an indictment of patriotism as Paths of Glory.
But their best album? Hijos del Culo (Sons of the Asshole--yeah, that's not going to cross over into Good Morning, America...). The tracks represents Bersuit at their most varied and playful, like "La del Toro," a ska-punk-flamenco mashup that imagines the band taking on the role of a bull and, um, sodomizing the bullfighter--the ultimate revenge of the 99 percent? In the Bersuit world, yes! And if you don't believe me, the album is dedicated to "the 70 percent of the Third World that has been born through the asshole--those who were shitted out."