Allá Es Tiempo

[Crammed Discs; 2008]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: psych-pop, guess-the-genre
Others: what {isn’t} like this these days?

I love Latin stuff with an irrational passion. I love Los Lobos even though their fans are all middle-aged and nobody really thinks of them as legit. When I discovered Os Mutantes, I said all the predictable things goofy people always do about them. I kinda like the horrible Mexican club music I catch from passing cars and certainly collect Latin artists who are probably the local equivalents of people I would sneer about in America. So, Allá have a lot of things that would usually short-circuit fair criticism from me: swaying beats, oblique chords, a cool, foreign-voiced girl to be spellbound by. Maybe it’s that I’m beginning to understand the bankruptcy of this sentiment or merely that this isn’t dusty, old music, but something visible in the full-spectrum glory of contemporary referential frames -- today, for whatever reason, I’m just not with this.

So, here’s what a cynic thinks: Allá are oddball, but they’re oddball like a lot of things today are. They are pleasant, light, clever, and arty in an anodyne way. Es Tiempo is like a collision between a blazing psych-rock band and a coffee shop performance by an earnest-but-tasteful singer. “Sazanami” is legitimately pretty psych-y, with tension and about as much echo flying around as any given Monster Magnet song -- but the second course of what turns out to be a two-track dish is instrumental wallpaper rock like you’d hear at any stuck-in-the-Aughts bagel shop.

Lupe Martinez has more than one trick up her nostrils, and all three of them are pretty good. She breathes falsetto beautifully, she does low-and-soulful too quietly, and gives jazzy scale singing what it needs, which is interesting scales. Without understanding the words, though, the record is an emotional monotone. Arranging duo Jorge and Angel suffer from the same able distance. They weave together tonally and texturally-varied sonics, but there isn’t enough of something to hold up 12 tracks that stretch on and on and on.

What dilutes Es Tiempo isn’t artistic ineptitude of some kind. Allá give us a vast quantity of a good thing, but it’s just not a really exciting or radical thing. There is a certain ambition here, but the conceit is only to juxtapose eccentric topics in a congenial space, like a slightly eclectic mix tape. To my ear, this is centrist juxtaposition that plays up the mushy, imaginary middle between the things it references.

Who knows, maybe two months from now I’ll be in a half-crazed Lupe daze, which admittedly does tend to happen. Maybe I’ll be wanting to rewrite this review, which can also happen when you disagree with yourself on a wide variety of subjects. But while I’m irritated, I’m going to seize the mood and give Es Tiempo the critique its boring craft deserves. Maybe everything is a gutless glimpse backwards in our despairing, postmodern world; nonetheless, you can do better than just juxtaposition, and you can also do juxtaposition better than this.

Most Read