Picture this: you haven’t bathed in ages and instead of getting a soap and an industrial-strength shampoo for that thick layer of dandruff that looks like a limestone horizon, you grab a guitar and make a cheeky song about it.
Also, you host a “devil may care” program on tv that gets cancelled because the executives pussyfooted and gave your timeslot to a trio of bints who pretend to be the Mexican equivalent (non-unionised, obviously) of The View.
So, no show, a song about not bathing and couple of musically inclined compas, plus an encyclopaedic knowledge of albures (double entendres) and puns. You nick the name from an expression yelled in a quirky cartoon you watched as a kid and you do the music circuits, brown nose for a while and fail to get any success in your home country, but manage to hit it big time in Canada.
Your name is Mamá Pulpa and I want my five quid. The album, El mundo es muy dificil (literally: the world is so hard, but poetically: the world’s so harsh), released in 2005, was probably the first rock en español album I bought in more than five years. It’s not that I hate all Mexican rock, it’s just that it’s so hard to find a band that will really engage you. The current state of radio and TV don’t help either the scene or the less known bands, but that’s fuel for another rant.
So, eleven tracks of puerile jokes, double entendres and some very clever puns (‘Cada vez que me baño’ takes the cake on puns) are what Mamá Pulpa offer in this rock album that manages to effortlessly put their chubby fingers in the ska, reggae, punk, funk and even metal genres.
It’s true that a lot of Mexican bands get flak due to the jokey nature of their lyrics and even if there’s a heavy reliance in comedy for the majority of this album (with the pinnacle being the super funny ‘Robot’), there’s a spot of social commentary cleverly hidden between the jokes. As we say in México, entre broma y broma, la verdad se asoma. Which roughly means: between the jokes, the truth pokes (not a literal translation, sorry).
‘Quiero ser un delicuente’ feels like a stream of consciousness rant you would have after a bad day in the office is capped off by a 2 hour commute back home (something common in México) and ‘No chille, agarre piedras’ is an utterly depressing (but funny) re-telling of how life passes you by and no matter what Michael Gambon says, you might get shitted on for the rest of your life. No wonder the purple octopus in the cover looks two mezcal shots from dining a bullet.
But yeah, Mama Pulpa’s strength is in creating chuckle-worthy stories. ‘Asesina’ tells the story of a guy finding out that his girlfriend is not only a serial killer, but also a cannibal. He notes (after a cool reggae breakdown) that he’s worried that now normal meat won’t taste the same since he’s used to the “special fillets” his ex used to serve him.
‘El secuestro’ is a song with a funny twist: a guy (a macho guy, of course, it’s México) decides to go Neanderthal on a girl and kidnaps her. They eventually marry and he ends up being pussywhipped, doing the dishes and cleaning and…wait, it’s not comedy, it’s a true comment on the drama of all Mexican husbands that have been subjugated by the yoke of the iron bra. Must us, men, allow this abuse of our gender by the evil, powerhungry women? Mamá Pulpa says NO! We must rise for our rights…as soon as the football is over. C’mon, Jaibas!
Sorry, for a minute there, I lost myself. Phew.
Anyways, there are also a couple of staple ballads (‘Desnuda’, ‘Compañera’), which are ok, not my cuppa, but they are not too mushy either, which is always a plus. ‘De Chivo los tamales’ is one of those Mexican phrases that are funny but sad: basically, it’s that your lover has been unfaithful to you and you have been served “unfaithful dumplings” (again, not literal).
So the song is a list of all the people the girl has been unfaithful with, including the singer’s dog (!). It’s this type of leftfield sort of humour that lets you forgive any crass language and enjoy the ride, fully knowing that for every quick, catchy joke, there is some thoughtful ones saved.
On that note about jokes and infidelity, the funniest (and catchiest) song has to be ‘Robot’, another story of being left for someone else. In this case, a robot constructed by the singer’s father in law. The wordplay in it is immensely funny and the flow of lyrics is very creative. Best bit is wishing that the robot’s battery supply will run out and the girl will realise that there are things where being human is much better.
But between all the jokes and social commentary, it all comes down to the music. It’s not only a very well performed album, but it’s fantastically mixed and all the songs are very catchy. Every instrument has a space to live in and the final mix is more Gestalt than Frankenstein (if that makes sense). Mixing wise, my fave track is ‘Mis amigos muertos’. The lyrics are dark (it’s about death – “life will abandon you when you less expect it”) and the rock mood changes seamlessly into a reggae breakdown that is the cherry on top for the album (the solo is perfect too). I can’t think of any better way to finish the album than with a song about death, a theme that occupies the Mexican culture in more ways that we Mexicans realise (or notice).
So there you go, a lost gem of Mexican humour, self-deprecation and social commentary. It fell through the cracks, sadly, as the musicians probably don’t fit in the Rock star standard held by our radio and TV stations, a real shame as they are good musicians with a sense of humour and a good knowledge of how to make a catchy tune.
Join us next week when we review their newest album, Tocadiscos. It’s a whole different beast, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
Words: Sam. (RIP GUAGARONES S.A. de C.V.)
Extra trivia: The name of the band comes from Squiddly Diddly’s catchphrase in Spanish. Whenever he got startled, he yelled “¡Ay, Mamá Pulpa!”. Also, he’s called Manotas (big hands) in Spanish. Random :P