Premier interpreters

Café Tacuba is the kind of band thoroughly comfortable revelling in dissonance. Even when the Mexican quartet revs up the traditional music of its home country, there’s just something arty about how they play it.

But when Café Tacuba decide to sound as straight-forward as any other rock band on the planet, they sound excellent.

Vale callampa, a tribute EP to Los Tres and the band’s debut for Universal, contains some of Café Tacuba’s least obtuse performances.

The disco beats, discernable melodies and “normal” chords of “Déjate Caer” sound almost alien compared to anything off of Reves/Yosoy or “12/12”, the band’s avant-garde collaboration with Kronos Quartet.

And yet, hints of the band’s usual weirdness crops up now and again.

The “ooh-ahh” harmony vocals of “Olor a Gas” are more humorously heavy-handed than need be. Eventually, they turn dischordant.

Singer Rubén Albarrán, credited this time as Rita Cantalagua a.k.a. Gallo Garrr, gives a spirited, jokester performance on “Amor violento”. In fact, “Amor violento” is where Café Tacuba sounds most like itself — pre-programmed beats and lush synthesizers mixing it up with Mexican guitars.

The four-track EP winds down with “Tírate”, performed as a straight-forward traditional song with a flourish here and there by an electric guitar and synthesizer.

Although Café Tacuba are excellent songwriters and composers in their own right — the aforementioned “12/12” being the most obvious example — Vale callampa reinforces the band as premier interpreters.

There isn’t a single song on the planet Café Tacuba can’t turn into their own. Even though the songs on Vale callampa aren’t the band’s, they make them sound like they’ve always been.

Unfortunately, the EP is also the worst kind of appetizer. It’s been nearly four years since the band released a full length album, excluding 2001’s retrospective Tiempo transcurrido. Is this any way to fix a Tacuba jones? For the time being, it’ll have to do.