There isn't a more Mexican band, nor one more entrenched in Anglo music than Café Tacvba (they grew up listening to the Clash, the Cure and the Smiths--among others). And there sure as hell ain't a band that can splice the sounds from both sides of the border more creatively or more effortlessly. While they've flirted with just about every Mexican folkloric genre and given their punk, rockabilly or electronica treatment to anything they could muster musically, the first single "Volver a Comenzar" off their new album "Sino" stands out because of its lyrical introspection and daring length at 7:44. It starts out as a bouncy, disco-punk number with a swirling sugarsweet synth hook. About halfway through, the tempo slows down to dreamy lullaby speed that has Brian Wilson-Pet Sounds written all over it--down to the swirving choral vintage Beach Boys ooh-ahhhs. It then progressively returns to the starting danceable beat ("Volver a Comenzar" means "starting over"). Interestingly enough, when I interviewed bassist Quique Rangel at the Latin Alternative Music Conference this past summer, he shared with me that the first album he plans to upload into his new iPod (after his old iPod and iTunes crashed) was "Pet Sounds." Thematically and lyrically, this epic single doesn't fall too far from its Wilson tree: its gushy, heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics of lament and "not having enough time to repair" all that's broken over soothing, almost meditative music is classic Wilson.
But there's more to "Sino." For the Tacvbos, it is an exercise in masterfully albeit metaphorically giving a peck on the cheek to some of the music that made them what they are. They walk a fine line between honoring their heroes and straight-up mugging them. By inserting musical or vocal nuances that are unmistakenly someone else's, as when lead singer Rubén Albarrán's decadent whiny Spanish vocals on "Cierto O Falso" slightly reek of Johnny Rotten, they avoid committing the cardinal sin of simply ripping off the Sex Pistols or becoming the Sex Pistols en Español, for instance.
Throughout the album you get a whiff of scents ranging from '66 ethereal surf pop to '77 British punk, but you're never clubbed over the head with it. But perhaps most importantly, the album is unequivocally a Café Tacvba album from start to finish.