2/05/2008

Welcome to Monterrock

JUMBO
Restaurant
(BMG US Latin-1999)
D.D. Y Ponle Play (BMG US Latin-2001)
Teleparque (BMG US Latin-2003)
Gran Panorámico (BMG US Latin-2005)
Superficie (NoiseLab-2007)


In the late ‘90s right thru the early years of the current decade, Monterrey, Mexico became a hotbed of music; a veritable rock and roll epicenter, with a host of bands briefly stealing the spotlight from their Mexico City counterparts and attracting international attention. (Hence the "Monterrock" nickname.) Generally more traditional sounding and less experimental than those in the capital—perhaps due to Monterrey’s close proximity to the US and the city’s relatively elevated economic status—this new scene spawned the likes of Plastilina Mosh, Kinky, Volován, Zurdok, and Jumbo, among others. While we love the late Zurdok’s output—especially their widely-lauded second album Hombre Sintetizador (Universal Latino-2000)—the latter are favorites very near and dear to us.

Not sure if they were a modern, melodic pop/rock band (“Fotografía”, “Alienados Para Siempre”) or Local H’s Mexican cousins (just about everything else), Jumbo’s 1999 debut Restaurant is understandably a tentative affair. But the seeds of their musical future were on that album’s “Siento Que”, a powerful anthem of longing and love on its last sighs that would subsequently come to define their sound, and is arguably their single best song. Restaurant got the band plenty of exposure within and beyond the borders of their native country and set the stage for their first true international hit.

The exact opposite of what is commonly known as a sophomore slump, D.D. y Ponle Play is quite a spirited affair. Chock full of soaring choruses, great playing and held together by a finely tuned production approach that gives the proceedings its underlying fluidity, D.D. Y Ponle Play is a rousing rock and roll record from start (“Rockstar”, “Audiorama”, “Después”) to finish (the timeless tracks “Desaparecer” and “Hoy”). Fans of Sloan and Teenage Fanclub will surely find a lot to like in a record that would kick-ass in any language
with even the most cursory of listens. (D.D. y Ponle Play actually includes two songs in English: "Happy High" and "Far Out".)

The life expectancy for a Latin American rock band is short, which is why they routinely sign major labels deals for 3 albums, as opposed to the 7 their Anglo counterparts are indebted for. Jumbo’s final release for BMG was Teleparque, a solid but unremarkable set that found the band in transition and sporting a bit more of a harder edge (“Bajo Control”, “Repetición”, “Yeah”) than on Play. The ‘70s mid-tempo groove of “15 Horas” is a highlight.

In 2005 BMG released Gran Panorámico, a best-of culled from the 3 previous albums with the added bonus of two new songs (the late period Beatles homage “Caminando Hacia Atrás” and "Hasta Que el Sol se Apague"), a couple of live tracks (“Superactriz” and a cover of famed Mexican crooner José José’s “Lo Dudo”) and a DVD with 13 video clips.

Now on an indie label but still enamored of the widescreen, hard-edged sound that had become their calling card, Jumbo released in 2007 what may be their best album yet, Superficie, a collection of songs that brings to the fore many of the elements that has characterized their work to date: Beatlesque pomp (“Un Millon de Vueltas”), retro/futuristic ballads (“No Me Hagas Caso”), catchy guitar pop (“Uno de Estos Dias”) crunchy garage rock (“Veo”) and straight up, mid-tempo rock (“Una Isla y el Mar”).

It’s always a wonderful thing to witness a band not only keep their relationship with the muse on solid ground after music biz upheavals, but to maintain intact their predilection and means to obtain that great panoramic sound we’ve come to enjoy.


Salud, caballeros!

5 comments:

godihateyourband said...

kiko, props. know nothing about this genre. more!

Kiko Jones said...

Cool, thanks GIHYB. Glad you enjoyed it.

There are a lot of great bands to discover from all over Latin America--if the language barrier is not a problem. Here are a few I recommend:

CAFE TACUBA (Mexico)
- Re (WEA-1994)
- Cuatro Caminos (Universal-2003)
Art school rockers who draw equally from their heritage as well as The Beatles, The Who and XTC.

DESORDEN PUBLICO (Venezuela)
- Plomo Revienta (Sony-1997)
Old school ska meets Afro-Cuban grooves and various elements of straight up rock. Think South American version of The Clash and you're in the ballpark.

ROBI DRACO ROSA (Puerto Rico/US)
- Vagabundo (Sony-1996)
If Alice in Chains' Dirt had been made by a romantic junkie poet with a feel for psychedelia it would probably sound like this. It's considered one of the greatest rock records ever recorded in Spanish. (Rosa was once in Menudo and also wrote Ricky Martin's biggest solo hits--yes, including "Living La Vida Loca"--but we all have our pasts to contend with. Ha!)

SODA STEREO (Argentina)
- Dynamo (Sony-1993)
- Sueño Stereo (BMG-1995)
Dynamo is a cross between U2's Achtung Baby and Depeche Mode's Violator, while Sueño is influenced by late period Beatles with hints of electronica. The most popular Spanish-language rock band of all time.

H said...

"The most popular Spanish-language rock band of all time."

Fans of Heroes Del Silencio would disagree.

Kiko Jones said...

Fans of Heroes del Silencio--why would anyone even admit to that in public?--are not only wrong but should be embarassed to have such poor taste in music. We've got two words for them: Billy Idol.

Ha!

Anonymous said...

ha ha ha. that was awesome. one thing i'd like to add is that as awesome as Jumbo is, they are still down to earth. i got to see them in a show and they did not hesitate to sign autograph, take pictures or anything. which in my opinion makes them even more awesome. this is definitely my favorite band.