The warm embrace of analogue change

So, just like we promised last week, we’ll look into Mamá Pulpa’s second album, 2010’s Tocadiscos.

Mamá Pulpa’s sophomore album, Tocadiscos, is a very nice, warm experience. Gone are (for the most part) the double entendres and wordplay, now the mood is a little more introspective, with an emphasis on the vicissitudes of love, social commentary and political criticism. Crass jokes are now replaced by colloquial wit (a.k.a. picardía Mexicana) and there’s more observational themes around.

Mamá Pulpa has made it a point that they don’t want to be pigeonholed in any genre, which is always a good thing. Who wants to be a one trick pony? Who wants to be forever known as that “jokey band” when you know you have the chops to pull of genres as varied as post-rock, punk salsa and reggae while still rocking out?

So instead of complaining bitterly about how “the media” has tagged and bagged them, they just let the music speak. It’s also of note that their objective of playing old instruments and using tape shows in the end product: it sounds real. The echoes, the depth… ah, it’s hard to define in words, so let’s start with ‘Esta noche’, the opening track. It’s a mid-tempo thumper, with lyrics referring to a plea for a truce with an estranged lover, a recurrent theme taken into the gem that is ‘No es tan fácil’, a track mixing swing with rock and sporting a very stylish bass sax. It’s my fave track from the album, and, again, even if it’s the old Mexican lyrical theme of broken hearts, it is heartfelt and the music more than makes up for any “run of the mill” accusations.

Worry not: you do get some of the usual Mexican humour based on double entendres, if that’s your cuppa, in the track called ‘Badum Badum’, a song that’s sort of tradition in school trips, in the style of ‘Kumbaya’. Only instead of a song of praise, it’s a rite of passage for naughty rhymes and one liners. I always thought it was a Mexican song, but there are versions in Spain and Portugal, so I really have no idea where this song came from. The Portuguese version is weird, it talks about having a dump at the graveyard(!). Mamá Pulpa’s version is okay, it’s not a song I found particularly funny but they do change the flow with a new rhyme and they’ve got a couple of extra special guests. It’s a good twist, but not one I like. I prefer the change they did to the typical canción de ardidos (which basically means: a song full of spiteful feelings you sing ‘cuz you’re heartbroken).

It’s a refreshing thought that for every spiteful song like ‘Sabes…’ or ‘Así’ (which is a very slow, groovy salsa),  there’s also ones where the blame is split evenly (‘No es tan fácil’, ‘Esta noche’, both pretty good) or when simply accepting that things sometimes don’t work and it’s better to call it a day (‘Me voy’). “Tal vez a mi me sienta bien la soledad“, claims Alfredo in ‘Me voy’, basically a rock song with a lot of details from other genres (sniffs of postrock, love it!). Mamá Pulpa is enjoying the freedom of playing a song, pimping it Xzibit style and even reworking some of the Mexican music tropes of salsa, bolero and tradicional.

On the socio-political side of Mamá Pulpa, ‘¡Qué mal gusto!’ and ‘El señor Pacheco’ talk about some of our Mexican society’s problem with double standards. The problem with people going to church and feeling self-righteous, the fact that all political parties in Mexico are cut from the same cloth and the social class situation. The sensibilities (and the message) from rock urbano (a genre talking about social class struggles and politics) are cleverly mixed around with some quick jokes.

Now, one side of the Mexican typical behaviour is spitefulness (‘Sabes’), another is making some crass, light jokes (‘Badum Badum’) but there’s also a particular problem in Mexican society (and our own mentality) that we hardly speak about and that is our own low self-esteem. For years, we’ve been under someone else’s jackboot, whether it was the Aztecs (pricks), the Spanish Conquistadores (even bigger pricks) and now, a bunch of politics that make the Aztecs’ policy of human sacrifice look like fucking lightweights tickling you. This low self-esteem usually means that we second-guess ourselves most of the time and we prefer to avoid an issue (or a task) for fear of failure (and mockery) than actually fucking try and do it. This, to me, is the crux of our problems in México, not only in the professional and love sides of our lives, but also regarding the political structure and the way business is run in Mexico (hint: slavery). But I’ll refrain on ranting about my own problems as a Mexican, it’ll be a tl;dr rant that goes against site’s policy. Suffice to say: the song ‘No pensar en nada’ is the one that pretty much sums up these feelings of lack of confidence. “Tienes el recuerdo / de las cosas que has soñado /y que no has hecho por desidia o por el miedo a fracasar”. You are haunted by the fact that you don’t do what you want to because of your own apathy and fear of failing. I for one feel so identified that this song cuts deep.

That’s probably the thing that makes Mamá Pulpa‘s music so dear to me: there are some common themes from Mexican music discussed, but the style is different and very honest. Truth hurts, even if there’s some jokes to break your fall.

In a world where music seems to be veering into the digitised, over-compressed white noise (a.k.a. The Loudness War), it’s always nice to listen to someone going retro not for the sake of piggybacking on the retro or hipster movement, but more to a true passion of the distinct sound of analogue.

It’s odd and a bit of stretch here (especially since it is not the same genre) but I’ll venture to say that the change Mamá Pulpa went from their first album to this sophomore offering feels like the change Control Machete went through from Mucho Barato to Artillería Pesada Presenta. The slower grooves, venturing into different genres and more sober lyrics while still retaining their identity.

Like I said before, Mamá Pulpa feels more confident in this album. Instead of going for the breakneck rhythm and the jokey lyrics from the first album, they go for different grounds and this artistic freedom pays off in an album that sounds different to the previous one but still retaining the band’s character without compromises.

And, hey, it has ‘Malas calificaciones’, so there’s a meeting point between two styles, no Blinovitch Limitation Effect worries about the band exploding when it meets itself, just enjoy this lovely album, it’s a very good treat and a cornucopia of musical styles played by a very good (and underrated) Mexican rock band.

Words: Sam. (RIP GUAGARONES S.A. de C.V.)

Links Website. Bandcamp. Facebook. Twitter. Myspace.

Extra trivia: ¡Gracias por esta música!

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