By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
R.O.C.K. in the Americas
If you ever wax nostalgic for rock the way it used to be--concerts as major events, music that isn't afraid to act like it's willing to assume a major role in your life, passion rather than posing--you should look to the nascent rock en espanol or rocanrol movement that's sweeping Latin America and even making inroads into the North.
The American invasion of rocanrol is currently being led by Saul Hernandez. Once the leader of Caifanes, one of the first Spanish-speaking bands to garner ink in the States, Hernandez now fronts Los Jaguares, Caifanes' natural progression and a band with a keen ear for rock form which--along with neighbors Maldita Vecindad--is making a strong case for Mexico City as a capital for rock en espanol.
Bolstered by the forthrightly electric guitar stylings of Jose Manuel Aguilera, Hernandez's combination of inflamed heart, darkly thoughtful mind, and a soul that knows both succor and damnation has made Los Jaguares the embodiment of every romantic notion applied to both Mexico and rock 'n' roll. Perhaps it's the band's Mexico City spawning ground--marked by inconceivable urban sprawl, what many call the most polluted city on earth sits in the shadow of ancient pyramids and sacrificial altars--or maybe it's the fact that official repression in Mexico is a sharper, more recent memory than it is here, but these proponents of rocanrol return rock to the urgency of its roots, with the accomplishment that marked art-rock before the bombast set in.
Hernandez himself is a well-nigh irresistible combination of integrity (refusing to abandon Spanish for an easy English-language crossover) and savvy (Don Was produced their most recent release, last year's El Equilibrio de los Jaguares), and a handsome frontman who justifies the audience's fixation on him. Although much of his lyrics and music still betray a dreamy, slightly melancholy tinge from his early days as an admirer of the Smiths/Cure school, he's not afraid to rock or shy away from anger, and the band's ability to impart tone and texture is superlative--if you don't pay close attention, you might forget that the words are in another language. This Dallas show may afford one of the most precious opportunities in popular music: the chance--a few years hence when the bandwagon creaks with the weight of popular acclaim--to say "I was there, way back when."
Los Jaguares play Club 2551, 2551 Lombardy, on Friday, March 7.