Thanks to the inexplicable mess of good and bad that is the Internet, I’ve had the opportunity to illegally sear Calle 13’s new album into my brain for a few days now – not that they’d care (see link to Ruben Blades interview at the end). It been a pleasant surprise to give the record a thorough listen a few days in advance, so I figured I’d write up my thoughts and share with you.
Los De Atras Vienen Conmigo kicks off with a slightly dramatic storytime sort of narrative telling the story of Residente, who only possesses Rene Perez when an imbecil listens to his music. I guess it’s like Tinkerbell and clapping or something. The intro is immediately followed by “Que Lloren” – generally aimed at the commercial reggaeton community, who according to Residente, sells itself for “cheaper than a whore on a highway,” and specifically aimed at Ivy Queen.
The record’s high-energy opening track is immediately followed by “No Hay Nadie Como Tu” featuring Cafe Tacvba – the original hispanic indie band. As a long-time Cave Tacvba fan (since middle school probably…) I was very happy to hear these two unique acts on the same track. It suprised me how successfully the track balances the individual sounds of both bands – drum machines and didgeridoos somehow mix very well with Cafe Tacvba’s upstroke-based surf tendencies. The lyrics seem like nonsense at first, however by the time the first chorus rolls around Residente’s point is clear – this is a celebration of uniqueness, diversity, and life, because there is no one quite like you.
“Gringo Latin Funk” (my favorite track at this point) follows up with Residente’s razor sharp tongue taking aim at that most displeasing Puerto Rican stereotype – the “gringo/gringa wannabe.” The beat starts up with some baritone sax licks with wah-wah guitar, latin percussion, and a fat synth bassline. The strings and horns kick in soon after, immediately followed by a dem-bow based drum track that blends real and sampled drums. Also, Residente gets some help on the chorus from his sister PG-13, who is slowly but surely gaining prominence as a member of the group. As a musician, when I listen to this track I can’t help but feel envious when I imagine how much fun Visitante, Calle 13’s beat man, must have in the studio.
And so on. I could continue writing about “La Perla” and the kind of musical maturity that kind of recording shows, or about the sheer electroboogie weirdness of “Electro Movimiento” (which makes me wish I knew how to breakdance). But I won’t. What I will do is wrap up with this: Los De Atras Vienen Conmigo shows true musical growth and accomplishment – something that fans and listeners like me will enjoy. If you are looking for radio-friendly slices of reggaeton, buy another record.
BONUS: If you speak Spanish and are in the mood for an interesting interview, check out this video of Residente and Visitante from Calle 13 kickin it with salsa icon Ruben Blades over a bottle of wine.
Calle 13 – Gringo Latin Funk