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Thursday, April 16, 2009

MADE IN MEXICO "Guerillaton"

You know, with all the bands out there which sound the same and pull from exactly the same influences, this album by Made in Mexico is really refreshing - but at the same time they make it seem so easy. By peeking just outside of the noise-rock/indie-rock world for inspiration, they immediately come up with something totally unique. And at the same time, it's clear this is just what came naturally to the band too, not a contrived theme, but a natural progression.

Let me back up and do the back-story as succinctly as possible. Guitarist Jeff Schneider used to be in Arab on Radar, a no-wave styled band known for their high energy. The others also come from various Providence avant-rock bands. At first Made in Mexico was a pretty thumping, skronky affair. Then I saw them a few years back and without radically changing the basic elements of their sound, they had found their groove. Literally. They made a packed room of people at one of those CMJ showcase shows dance.

The influence that is heavily quoted and mentioned all over this album is reggaeton music, which is something like a recent cross-breed of hip-hop, dancehall, and salsa. You can read more at Wikipedia. The characteristic reggaeton beat is that "BOOM ch-BOOM chick" that starts off the track "For Your Own Good" on this album. Of course reggaeton is usually made with drum machines and doesn't usually feature shrill, metallic guitar playing. It also usually features rapping, not alternating kitten-soft and banshee-shrieked vocals.

So what we have here is a genuine mutant hybrid, not no-wave anymore, too weird to be punk rock, and definitely not legitimate reggaeton. But definitely in the tradition of punk bands that looked outside of their immediate neighborhood for inspiration and came up with something refreshing, like Public Image Limited or Gang of Four or even the Clash. Maybe even the Pixies, who similarly merged piercing guitars, a Spanish influence, and soft/scream vocals - but with rather different results.

I just love the thematic unity of this whole album, with the packaging reflecting the music and lyrics, all of which also take inspiration from Latin American radical revolutionary politics. I also really like the little musical interludes which feature riffs from songs elsewhere on the album, and "Mundo 1" even uses that siren sound that they always use on NYC's reggaeton radio station when they change from one song to the next. One of my favorite parts of the album is the last track, "March on La Migra." It starts our somewhat innocuous, but takes a left turn halfway through and becomes downright chilling by the end with singer Rebecca Mitchell screaming "Surely they want - human touch!" At least, I think that's what she's saying. Definitely ending on a high note.

Available on CD and LP from Skin Graft Records.

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