Cafe Tacuba

Cuatro Caminos (MCA)

ACL Fest Record Reviews

Cafe Tacuba

Cuatro Caminos (MCA) The four paths of Cuatro Caminos are found on "Puntos Cardinales" (Cardinal Points): "love and sweetness, strength and courage." On the Mexico City quartet's fifth album, Cafe Tacuba -- to quote the song -- "navigates the streets and cities without knowing names." It's their way or the highway (carretera), you might say. After the lengthy layoff following 1999's Reves/Yosoy, which took home Best Album of the Year honors at the first Latin Grammys, Cafe Tacuba coughed up last year's maddeningly short Vale Callampa EP, a playful burst in the face of Reve/Yosoy's sprawling ambition. Cuatro Caminos shortcuts through that sonic and thematic sprawl, arriving at the same destination. Enlisting cottage industry David Fridmann (Flaming Lips) and Andrew Weiss (Ween), the group once again navigates a thoroughfare of sound, rich in tempos, beats, riffs, musical embellishment, never pausing long enough to sound like anyone else. The android ache of "Encantamiento Inútil" (Useless Enchantment) comes closest: Radiohead. Ruben Albarran's nasal pinch is an acquired taste, but Emmanuel del Real's masterful programming, plus Joselo and Enrique Rangel's guitar and bass, are deep, round, caffeinated. From electro flange opener "Cero y Uno" (Zero and One) and Euro ska of "Eo" (Soundman) to the whispery balladry of "Eres" (You Are) and somnambulism of "Desperté" (I Awoke), Cafe Tacuba can do little (muy poco) wrong here. The probing bash 'n' pop of "Qué Pasará" (What Will Happen) won't be lost on Western ears, but its Spanish refrain -- "What will happen if I keep wasting lives like a cat?" -- might. Being bilingual shouldn't be a prerequisite to roc, but let's not Kid A ourselves. Love, sweetness, strength, and courage will only get you so far on this side of the border. (Saturday, 8pm, Heineken stage)

****  

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