As singer and guitarist for the Buenos Aires trio Soda Stereo in the 1980s and '90s, Gustavo Cerati helped launch rock en espa–ol. Not that the group ever incorporated native traditions into its music, the way Cafe Tacuba or El Gran Silencio later would--most of Chau Soda (Sony Latin), a two-CD set from 1997 that covers most of the band's 15-year career, is unlistenable, a sickly-sweet melange of Simple Minds, the Police, and U2 flecked with ska, goth, and electronica. But Soda Stereo was the first Latin American band to do this kind of thing en espa–ol--to write slick modern pop with Spanish lyrics--and the first to become international superstars doing it. The band members meticulously mimicked the marketing techniques of their northern counterparts, wearing bad new-wave hairdos and directing their own videos, and it worked: they were huge throughout Latin America, racking up platinum records and playing to hundreds of thousands of fans. At the height of their popularity, in 1993, Cerati released a solo album, Amor amarillo (BMG Latin), that revealed a previously unseen artistic depth. It was pop music, no question, but it was marked by a conciseness the band's records sorely lacked, and its electronic textures presaged a shift in Soda Stereo's sound. In 1997 the band called it quits, but Cerati continued to experiment; he collaborated with the English electronica outfit Black Dog (aka Plaid) in 1998, and last year he released his second solo album, Bocanada (also on BMG Latin), a dramatic, hooky pop record built on sharp layers of samples, programmed beats, and live instrumentation. It's easily his finest work, and one of the two or three best pop records made last year. Cerati is a superb singer in the Latin American tradition--to some he may seem overly sentimental--but here he eschews the pouty bombast of his work with Soda Stereo and focuses on the fine details; from the relentlessly driving "Tabu" to the heavily orchestrated "Verbo carne," he doesn't waste a gesture. Soda Stereo played a sold-out show at the Aragon Ballroom in 1996, but these dates, part of a brief six-city U.S. tour, are Cerati's first solo appearances in Chicago. Monday, 8 PM, and Tuesday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.