It's not often that an album of alternative versions of songs first recorded by others approaches instant-classic status, a privilege usually reserved for recordings of original material.

But on "Avalancha de Exitos" ("Avalanche of Hits"), whose sarcastic title refers to the cheesy musical compilations often found in Latin music catalogs, Cafe Tacuba comes close.

The tribute album has a sound of its own and confirms the Mexican rock en espan~ol band as one of the most creative leaders in all of Latin pop. Instead of redoing big commercial hits, the group for the most part opts to pay homage to lesser-known hymns from some of its favorites, including Sergio Arau, Nacho Cano and Odio Fonky. The result is a varied, unpredictable sample of the band's versatility.

A Mexico City rap becomes hilarious and unintelligible hip-hop, and Juan Luis Guerra's "Ojal que llueva cafe" (originally a merengue) becomes a fierce huapango, with singer Anonimo holding his own in the difficult style. Even Leo Dan's "Como Te Extran~o Mi Amor," a corny romantic ballad by the legendary singer-songwriter, is given a hip reworking by Cafe Tacuba, with a ska-ish treatment.

At first, it was the unusual lineup of acoustic guitar, upright bass and drum machine that made Cafe Tacuba interesting. Now, it is the music itself that makes this one of the most original bands on earth.

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