Elefant Records from Madrid is becoming one of my go-to’s for new releases. This PAPA TOPO album cover tho. “The end of the year is coming, and it has become a tradition to anxiously await the musical bits that are being prepared for us to the New Year’s Eve special “Cachitos De Hierro Y Cromo”. And we can give you a little hint of what to expect. Among the special guests, we are going to hear PAPA TOPO with a very special cover of SONIA Y SELENA. It is an ultra-danceable song that also includes a small tribute: the music base is a sample of the B-side of the first Single from the forgotten group GOMA DE MASCAR, “Soñando En El Cielo”, which is turning exactly 40 years old. We are taking advantage of this occasion to release this Digital Single that is a celebration of parties, of New Year’s, of the anniversary of GOMA DE MASCAR, and that we will be hoping to be with you while you listen to music, one more year.” Bandcamp. –HN
Wild Animals: Spanish pop punk enriched by DIY ethics and politics.
One of the worst things that has happened to pop punk in the past twenty years was how the genre distanced itself from the DIY ethics it was born with. Strengthened by the catchiness of their vocals harmonies, by the approachability of their riffs and by the appealing image of an arguable rebellion, a lot of bands laid emphasis solely on the pop side of the genre, forgetting where it all came from.
It’s in this context that a band like Wild Animals, a three-piece from Madrid, is truly important. First off, their songwriting is excellent. They could have easily been released by Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords in 1999. Their last record, Basements: Music To Fight Hypocrisy is comprised of ten melodic punk rock gems with ’90s emo nuances that hint to early Saves The Day and Jawbreaker. The play fast songs with unforgettable hooks, reaching the highest peaks when the vocals of lead singer and guitar player Jamie and of drummer Paula meet, like on their anthem “Avocado”.
The lyrics are flawless, as the band is not ashamed to sincerely share their personal stories. Like on “Heavy Metal Saved My Life”, where they recount how each of the band’s members got into punk and extreme music: Youth Of Today for Paula, heavy metal for Jamie, and Rancid and Propagandhi for bass player Fon, who also runs one of the most active DIY labels in Spain, La Agonia De Vivir.
And here’s where another fundamental aspect of the band comes into play. Rather than aiming to be released by major labels or try to tour with big American pop punk bands, Wild Animals have their roots in the hardcore and DIY scene. They sing about politics, play in squats, book their own tours, release their records with the help of self-managed labels from the whole world. By doing so, they bring the genre back to where it was born, and regenerate it with enviable freshness.
This music video by Madrid rapper BEJO is, uh, something. I think it involves Magos, but only because the song is called “Mango.” There are six-eyed men and cartoonish parrots watching you. Unknowingly, you silently shake to BEJO’s subtle but strong beat. There are some sheep, I think. And a frying pan. So fresh.
“Eres Tú” (“It’s You” in English), written by famed songwriter Juan Carlos Calderón, first became big when the Spanish male/female collective Mocedades performed on the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg, a sort of American Idol showcasing the best of European music. The song came in 2nd behind Luxembourg’s own Anne-Marie David, but “Eres Tú” managed to find a bigger audience outside Europe, and it has the proud distinction of being one of the few Spanish language songs to break into the US charts (#9 on the Billboard Hot 100). It’s easy to hear how that could have happened; even in a different language, the song’s anthemic horns and uplifting harmonies makes it sound like a pop hit in line with the rest of ’70s Adult Contemporary ripping off ABBA. There’s also a flute, so that’s automatic street cred with the Jethro Tull crowd.
P.S.: Mocedades released an English version as a B-side called “Touch the Wind,” though that version has a different set of lyrics written by Mike Hawker rather than rewriting the original Spanish.