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Record Rack

Norten~o music is a grandiloquent, larger-than-life affair. Popular groups such as Los Tigres del Norte routinely release double-album collections that could really fit on a single disc. Their live presentations are usually preceded by 15-minute-long recorded intros. The idea is to create an operatic sort of mood before the bouncy drum rolls and hot accordion licks are ushered in.

Now, Los Tucanes de Tijuana attempt to outdo the competition by releasing two albums that are sold separately but meant to be two sides of the same coin, demonstrating the quintet’s stamina and versatility. “Me Gusta Vivir de Noche” is a pop record filled with mild ballads and colorful tales about soccer matches and Viagra. It’s pleasant but lukewarm.

“Corridos de Primera Plana,” on the other hand, is a vicious, dark and ultimately cathartic collection of bloody corridos, the accordion-laden folk songs that, in their present incarnation, tell stories about coyotes (the human, not canine, variety), drug trafficking and the endless violence of life in the border zone.

Much as Los Tucanes enjoy performing the pop stuff, this is clearly where their soul is. If you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll probably find the 15 tunes here a bit monotonous. But patient listeners with a dictionary in hand will find plenty of rewards. These ominous moral tales resonate with the same magical realism that defines the works of celebrated Mexican writers such as Juan Rulfo and Jorge Ibarguengoitia.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.


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