I’m conflicted about this. No, I’m not going to be the usual curmudgeon saying “oh, another re-release? *SNORT*” because I love Jumbo to bits. What I’m conflicted about is the covers’ disc of this re-release, because although I always champion covers as a new way to re-introduce a band to a new generation whilst giving a chance to new bands to pay it forward to their heroes, I might have “history” with three songs from this album.
Fuckola! I’m getting ahead of myself. Please, allow me to elaborate. Grab a mantecada (that’s a cupcake without frosting, kids) and a coffee, because this is a long and slightly boring ass story.
I bought Restaurant in 2001 when I didn’t have that many Mexican rock albums in my collection. I can’t conjure up a logical explanation, I just didn’t buy Mexican stuff, barring 2 albums by Control Machete and Plastilina Mosh‘s second album. I only knew three songs by Jumbo, a band I got into because of their show during Vive Latino 2000.
Although I didn’t enjoy my 2001, the album made a very bad year a lil’ better, so I have a very soft spot for the album, of which I shall now bore you with my review.
If there’s anything that first got my attention the first time I heard Restaurant it was the delightful use of distortions and the juxtaposition between the melodic approach in vocals clashing with the sometimes Space Rock. ‘Monotransistor’ is such a corker of an album opener: punchy, straight out wild and infectiously catchy. ‘Dulceácido’ mellows a bit, but still has some teeth, possibly a precursor to ‘Aquí’, a track that summed up Jumbo to a lot of people (and a crowd pleaser on their live sets).
Funny thing about ‘Aquí’… for a while I truly believed that all songs in México were about being in love or being spiteful because love’s gone sour. Even if ‘Aquí’ starts with some platitudes of love songs (“you don’t love me / you don’t care about me“) it veers into another thread, tackling routine, traffic jams and the joy of feeling alive. Hey, it’s a start. ‘Fotografía’ is the ballad and I’m not ashamed to like it, even if it’s been terribly overplayed, which I guess it’s a point towards their knack for making a catchy song.
‘Nova’ is where it gets heavy. Again, the vocals are mellow and nice, but the distortion is cranked up, much to our pleasure. ‘Superactriz’ tackles that “spiteful” mood I mentioned and ‘Siento que…’ tackles the hopeful yet nostalgic feeling of teenage romance. The song also introduced us less “in the know” about a lil’ cool band called Niña (which we’ve reviewed before).
Up to this point, you might think Jumbo has a formula and I guess they did, but they do turn the formula on its head a few times as we approach the last third of the album. ‘Dilata’ is an extremely catchy song, easily my second fave from the album. But, what’s this? The lyrics aren’t as happy as the song? With allusions to the world of high couture and models, it’s a deceptively sad song, possibly paying homage to all those happy songs from the 80s with hidden depressing meanings (case in point: Nena‘s ’99 red balloons’ is actually about nuclear war).
‘Desde que nací’ has a slow groove, with that keyboard sound that became the ubiquitous sound in most Mexican indie bands in the years that followed. Again, the lyrical work is more about life’s vicissitudes than love and spitefulness, which was another selling point for the band. By this track, I was pretty much a convert.
And then ‘Explosión’ happened. By Jove, it literally blew my tiny mind back then and even to this day I’m still amazed by this song. With the foreboding intro and general heavy atmosphere, it’s a melancholic slice of Space Rock, taking its time to transform from a small star into a Quasar of emotions. This song made me fall in love with Restaurant. ‘Automático’ is a late comer in the straight rock branch, but it’s as effective as ‘Nova’, possibly even more aggressive.
Remember how you felt the first time you broke up with someone and felt marooned? ‘Alienados para siempre’ reflects this just right, again with a despondent feeling. ‘Tú me ves’ features a funky wah wah effect with the theme of personal relationships making the scene. The ambient-heavy ‘Siempre en Domingo’ ends the Restaurant in a slightly wistful way. Yes, a bit downbeat, but there’s some hope in the chilled-out sounds resonating the last minutes of the album.
And now, let’s talk about the cover versions contained in cd 2 of this re-release.
Like I said, tough. My connection to Restaurant increased over the years, which I guess it clouded my judgement with their other albums (which I still rate). Now, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the new bands coming out in your home country when you are somewhere else, so besides being an interesting take of one of my fave albums, it also helped me discover a couple of bands I’m probably will be writing about soon.
I like my covers diverse. Why do the same song as it was without adding your own blend of herbs and spices? Technicolor Fabrics lightens up ‘Monotransistor’, digitising and quantising the once-distorted chords. Niña (the band Jumbo namedropped in ‘Siento que…’!) tackles ‘Dulceácido’, imprinting their squirrel-powered riffs into the track. Comisario Pantera slows down ‘Aquí’, adding a spot of ukulele for a breezy cover. Love the guitar solo. Los Claxons make ‘Fotografía’ their own, but they don’t change the original that much. I don’t envy them, it’s probably the hardest one to cover without enraging the Jumbo Army (there has to be one). Sweet song. Rebel Cats‘ trick has always been rockabilly and the quiffed ones deconstruct ‘Nova’, mashing it up a bit with Queen‘s ‘Crazy little thing called love’ by the end.
So far, so good.
Ah, ‘Superactriz’. This is where the concept of cover is taken to the limit, as this complete deconstruction only preserves the lyrics and the female vocals. The structure is the same, but Mexican Dubwiser and Pato Machete offer a real leftfield version, a very fresh take on this incisive ditty. Siddharta tackle another difficult one to cover, that golden oldie called ‘Siento que…’. It certainly maintains the nostalgic brush strokes from the original, adding a bit of sadness to the proceedings.
‘Desde que nací’ becomes a clinical track thanks to Disco Ruido, with some sweeping synths with bubbly effects. Effervescent! It might seem that everyone’s making their songs easy going but Disidente manages to make ‘Automático’ harder and riff-ier, probably the only cover that resembles the original the most. Andrea Balency’s take on ‘Tú me ves’ is a jazzy sort of electropop, miles away from the funky original but quite classy. Ventilader makes ‘Siempre en domingo’ an 80s pop ditty, a sweet and low goodbye to the cover album.
The DVD includes some extra covers. Los Infierno make ‘Dulceácido’ an early 90s rock punch, The Volture decides that ‘Aquí’ needed a spot of Industrial makeover and so they did, pulling a Cyberman conversion process on the track. Insite‘s cover of ‘Siento que…’ is a very nice revelation, probably tapping into how universal the feelings in this track are. I really don’t know what La Banderville did to ‘Dilata’, part chamber, part speed metal vals… where am I and why am I shining while I walk? Sr. Muñoz does a fluffy cover of ‘Alienados para siempre’ and Elevador‘s cover of ‘Siempre en domingo’ is a very nice take, adding some strange ambient noises to their majestic rock cover.
Now, I’ve skipped three tracks from my track-by-track recollection because, fuck it, these three are my faves from the original album. Rodrigo Robles’ ‘Dilata’ throws a curveball, adding a chorus and a bit of strings, making the rocking original a slightly religious chamber pop monster. It’s a sweet re-invention. Movus surprises me with ‘Explosión’, as their Post Rock sensibilities come to show, adding some found sounds and samples heavily imbued with paranoia (I think it’s a George Bush speech). It’s as majestic as Post Rock gets and it made me a fan of the band. Renoh chase ‘Alienados para siempre’ down into a ginnel, under thunderous rain. They stare at each other and the encounter leaves the band standing triumphant. Slashes of dream pop and shoegaze cover the body of ‘Alienados para siempre’, another victim in Renoh‘s deft sounds. Keep an eye on them.
So, there you go, a re-release that manages to offer something else than just a re-mastering. It’s nice to see that this album has been influential in so many bands and it’s even nicer that the selection of bands, both long in the tooth and upstarts, get a chance to freely experiment on these old lovely tracks.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López.