Rock & Roll Books

Summer reading

Rock & Roll Books

Rock en Español: The latin Alternative Rock Explosion

by Ernesto Lechner

Chicago Review Press, 258 pp., $16.95

The only thing lamer than the collected works of rock critics not named Lester Bangs are their leftovers. Argentine Ernesto Lechner, who covers the Latin beat for Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Rolling Stone, among others, began covering the scene at its apex, 1997, and it's immediately apparent that the 19 acts profiled in Rock en Español were chosen from among Lechner's previous feature assignments. Not that those efforts have been reprinted here. Instead, Lechner throws together an inadequate amount of biographical details, ersatz record reviews of whatever the act was promoting at the time, and tidbits from accompanying live shows. Long artist quotes that oft times should've been paraphrased by the author serve as further padding. That said, there's not much fat here; Manu Chao, one of the architects of the movement, gets dispatched in nine loose-print pages, and it's one of the longer entries. Molotov is half-assed in 51Ú2, and El Gran Silencio make out no better at six pages. More problematic, perhaps, is Lechner's general taste; his dismissal of Julieta Venegas' career best, 2003's ("strangely pedestrian"), belies the entire thrust of her entry. Ely Guerra, meanwhile, the other leading diva to make headway in the States, doesn't make it out of an appendix, which includes blurbs on lesser Rock en Español acts like El Tri, Los Lobos, and Santana.

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