The Mexico City quartet Cafe Tacuba has stayed vital for 14 years now by forever changing their focus. When they first started, the band mixed traditional Mexican folk tropes with punkish energy and the charged, high-pitched vocals of front man Ruben Albarran. They soon broadened their sound to include clever injections of ska, alt-rock, lounge pop, industrial noise, and straight-up norteno, and on their 1994 classic, Re, all those elements coalesced to convey the sound of a band making sense of its own cultural identity while embracing the world at large. On the stunning Reves/Yosoy (1999), the group transformed itself, recording stand-alone sets of loosely experimental instrumentals and artsy, electronics-enhanced pop. On last fall's Vale callampa, a loving homage to the Chilean rock band Los Tres, Tacuba presented four relatively faithful covers, and this year--after a long wait--the band finally released a new album of originals, Cuatros caminos (MCA). For the first time they're a thoroughly modern rock band, though they still manage to sound like no one but themselves. They've replaced their usual drum programming with a pair of actual drummers, onetime Beck cohort Joey Waronker and Victor Indrizzo (Chris Cornell, Macy Gray), though neither has joined the band. "Cero y uno" and "Que pasara" flex hard-rock muscle, while "Mediodia" and "Encantamiento inuntil" (produced by Mercury Rev's Dave Fridmann) luxuriate in a rainbow of instrumental colors. Other selections, like the skittering first single, "Eo," match majestic, euphoric pop melodies with restless, shifting arrangements. Cafe Tacuba is the best Spanish-language rock band on the planet--I can't think of too many better performing in any language. They're touring with drummer Luis Ledezma. The terrific Monterrey, Mexico, group El Gran Silencio--who nicely juggle dancehall, cumbia, electro, and rock--open (see Spot Check). Saturday, August 2, 8 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence; 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eniac Martinez.