November 22, 2002

Vale Callampa: Café Tacvba’s Newest Musical Experiment

By Pablo De Sainz

Café Tacvba is the band in Mexican rock that experiments the most with its music. The Tacvbos have a great ability to take any instrument typical in regional Mexican music, such as, let’s say, the harp, and blend it with electronic music; or they can also write a song with simple lyrics, such as, let’s say, tell a Mexican peasant’s love story, and create a post-modern bolero.

Since 1992, when it released its first album, the quartet has followed a route that sets them apart from other modern rock en español bands. For example, in 1994, Re was a revolutionary album. Songs like La ingrata and El ciclón took Indigenous elements to create truly alternative melodies. After that, with their Avalancha de éxitos in 1996, the Tacvbos paid homage to bands and composers that had an impact on the quartet’s life. From this album outstands Chilanga banda, a tongue twister by Jaime López. But in 1999, Café Tacvba released a double album without comparison in Mexican rock: Yo soy/Revés, a total experimentation.

Once again, the Tacvbos return with Vale Callampa (MCA Records, 2002) an Extended Play that only includes four songs, but, without a doubt, four bad ass songs.

The four tracks are covers from hits by a Chilean band called Los Tres, which recently broke up. Café Tacvba, as a tribute to that band, decided to take the four songs the group considered its favorites, and went into the studio to make a mess, until they totally changed the songs from their original versions. The album’s title, Vale Callampa, comes from a Chilean expression meaning, more or less, that something has no value.

Déjate caer, the album’s first single, is a kinda electronica song that reminds us of the covers in Avalancha de éxitos, such as Alarmala de tos and Metamorfosis.

Olor a gas is the best song in the album. With a bit of the ‘50’s rock & roll, Olor a gas is low-tempo, with vocals and strong drums.

Amor violento is an electronic ballad where the voice of Gallo Gasss (aka Pinche Juan, Anónimo, Masiosare, and, recently, Rita Cantalagua) seems makes fun at the cheesy lyrics, making the song more original.

Tírate takes us back to the acoustic songs in Re, such as El aparato and Las flores, where the acoustic guitar takes a sound similar to son veracruzano.

Gallo Gasss, Café Tacvba’s vocalist, said that “the idea to make this EP came to us straight from the heart, for the love and admiration for their compositions; to diminish the grief we felt when we learned they had disbanded.”

And talking about why they had done covers instead of original songs, the band’s keyboardist, Emmanuel del Real, said that “we very much enjoy doing versions of other groups’ or songwriters’ songs. We have discovered that as a group it comes naturally for us to do cover versions, since the composer is not present and thus it doesn’t matter if we break some boundaries.”

With this album, Café Tacvba will start a brief tour in several U.S. cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Vale Callampa is an album that again proofs the sense of experimentation and tells us: the Tacvbos aren’t worth callampa!

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