Café Tacuba is one of those bands where owning one of its albums will make you look cooler and smarter than you already are.
That’s because Café Tacuba is one of those bands that slavishly works to produce challenging, uncompromising recordings. The Mexican quartet play loosely traditional Latin music with an attitude and energy that’s all about rock ‘n’ roll.
They’re intercultural pranksters who can turn a merengue hit into a Mexican huapango. And when they’re not turning Latin music on its proverbial head, they’re pushing the acceptible limits of even the most artsy of art rock. (Kronos Quartet even worked with them.)
Now Café Tacuba has released a career retrospective, Tiempo transcurrido.
For a greatest hits collection, the album holds together incredibly well, almost sounding quite homogenous.
But in a very good way. Over the course of nine years, Café Tacuba hasn’t lost its course.
Moody tracks from 1999’s experimental Yosoy don’t sound out of place next to more out-going tracks such as the rough-hewned “El ciclón” or the electro-punk bombast of “Pinche Juan”.
Musical jokes such as “No controles” and “Ojalá que llueva café” — the aforementioned merengue-turned-huapango track — share a spiritual kindredness to the kinetic “Las flores” and “Ingrata”.
Such musical adventurousness makes the multi-rhythmic “Chilanga banda” and the dissonant “El aparato” feel positively normal.
Ramon Albarran’s nasal squeal, a voice that could easily grate in the wrong setting, never wears out its welcome. If anything, no one else is suitable for Café Tacuba’s genre-defying work.
Even clocking at 74 minutes and containing 22 tracks, Tiempo transcurrido feels like it finishes way too early. The album ends abruptly with “La dos”, not giving listeners the comfort of a fade out.
Few bands can break such rules so effectively. Café Tacuba has made a career out of it but still manages to squeeze in a few hooks amid all that rhythmic complexity and harmonic discomfort.
Tiempo transcurrido is a smart album, the best of the best. Getting it will make you smart too.