Album review: Babasónicos' 'A Propósito'
The music video of "Deshoras" -- the lead single off Babasónicos' 10th studio album -- depicts the Argentine sextet as decadent audience members, watching brutal bouts of martial arts combat inside a mansion. Strangely enough, the song itself is anything but violent. A subtly layered pop-rock miniature, its melody seeped in nostalgia, it evokes the haunting textures of '70s Latin balladry.
Then again, Babasónicos is known for its perverse fascination with contrasts. Since it emerged in the early '90s from the suburbs of Buenos Aires, the band has alternated between trashy Spanish torch songs, the hedonistic glam-pop of Roxy Music and carefully constructed tributes to vintage arena rock ("Scorpions Fan" is the title of an earlier song). It is the honey-sweet voice of singer and resident eccentric Adrián Dárgelos that makes it all gel together. And the hypnotic hooks, of course. For a band of such experimental tendencies, Babasónicos has amassed a remarkable catalog of hits.
"A Propósito" follows the same aesthetic path as the group's last three albums. But the songwriting is particularly zesty and accomplished. The rollicking "Fiesta Popular" advises the rich to embrace working-class parties. "Barranca Abajo" mixes wide-eyed tenderness with unrestrained erotica. And the nine-minute-long "Muñeco De Haití," with its thumping beat and gleeful electronic blips, delivers three different song ideas within the same breathless epic.
As a genre, most Latin rock involves a never-ending race to catch up, to stand up to the Radioheads and Coldplays of the world. A rare exception to the rule, Babasónicos forges its own path, anchored on the sheer beauty of its music. The español part of the equation is just a detail this time around.
-- Ernesto Lechner
Three and a half stars