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Latin Bands Break Out From Behind Barriers

Lorraine Ali writes about pop music for Calendar

In this edition of Sound & Vision, where music videos are rated on a scale of 0-100, Latin bands break style and language barriers, bringing their own fresh and edgy perspectives to hip-hop, ska, punk rock and just about any other form of MTV-viable music out there. The international lineup ranges from Mexico’s Plastilina Mosh and Molotov to Argentina’s Fabulosos Cadillacs and L.A.'s own Ozomatli.

But rather than lump them in the category of rock en espan~ol--a term used first to describe Argentina’s and later Mexico’s burgeoning contemporary music scenes--these bands are defiantly individualistic.

Plastilina Mosh plays a mix of hip-hop, Mexican lounge, funk and quirky electronic samples (think Beastie Boys or Beck). The Cadillacs slam out a funk-punk-salsa mix, while Molotov delivers cool, cruising strains of Latin-ized rap. The 11-piece Ozomatli mixes salsa, funk and hip-hop.

These bands, along with a brigade of others, defy the stereotypes of Latin rock as a pale imitation of traditional, English-language rock bands. Instead, they are all edgy enough to catch the ear of more adventurous alternative-rock and hip-hop fans in any country.

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Molotov’s “Gimme Tha Power.” In this video, shot in black and white with some eerie blue tint, a shady character in a dark suit cruises in a vintage Ford Falcon through what looks like a depressed industrial town. The slick-haired driver guzzles from a bottle, smokes countless cigarettes and drives over shards of a mirror.

No matter where he travels, he winds up, much to his frustration, in the same place. Eventually, he wakes from his alienated stupor to find a world of color, where a small crowd of people ogles and then runs from his car before it blows up. The video oozes with surreal qualities and a film noir sexiness. The song is a smooth, moody soundtrack, yet it bristles with exclamations certain to be censored even on cable. 91

Fabulosos Cadillacs’ “Calaveras Y Diabolitos.” The action here takes place inside an animated doll house, where all the paper dances and little Day of the Dead figures spruce themselves up in front of mirrors. Picture frames and wall mirrors are filled with ever-changing images, including performances by the band. The meeting of folk art and modern technology represents the band’s music, which is a blend of traditional Latin styles and quirky pop-influenced reggae and ska. 89

Plastilina Mosh’s “Mr. P. Mosh.” The duo portrays slacker convenience-store workers who are seduced by an ultra-curvy customer in sexy high heels. The flirtatious shopper winks her heavily made-up eyes and puckers her glossy red lips, only to end up taking a ride with the guys in a duded-out hatchback, complete with flames painted on the side. The video becomes increasingly ridiculous as it proceeds, underscoring its party spirit with women in gaudy platinum wigs lounging poolside and performing water ballet stunts that won’t make you forget Esther Williams. It’s ultra-colorful and silly, but how can you not love a video whose high point is a woman spelling out “P Mosh” with mustard on a hot dog? 82

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The Deftones’ “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away).” OK, so the Deftones aren’t rock en espan~ol. But this video from the Sacramento band is bursting with enough bittersweet sentiment and a mix of soft and harsh dynamics for it to be a summer anthem. This simple performance clip finds singer Chino Moreno and band playing a heavy-duty range of emotions under what looks to be a freeway underpass, stomping about in puddles and avoiding eye contact with the camera at all costs. Intercut with out-of-focus, naked-body imagery, the video is both delicate and destructive, though it doesn’t quite capture the frenetic qualities of this promising band. 75

Ozomatli’s “Eva.” This complex and vibrant song is too compelling to be accompanied by such a blurry and overexposed video. Though perhaps meant to be experimental and arty, the hazy imagery and bleached-out scenes leave one longing for solid visuals and cleaner performance shots of the band. Instead, it’s like being subjected to a stranger’s out-of-focus party memories. 39


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