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Overdone Maná lacks spice, but Kinky cooks

Two of Mexico's premier rock bands take decidedly different paths on their new albums. While Maná delivers an arena-ready set of songs, Kinky takes its electronic indie rock to the party people.


Warner Música Latina

If we were to speak in culinary terms, the current state of Latin rock resembles a lavish buffet where a wide array of idiosyncratic dishes (Café Tacuba, Babasónicos, Los Amigos Invisibles, Nortec Collective) overwhelm your palate with their bold combinations of sophisticated spices and contrasting flavors. The music of hugely successful Mexican supergroup Maná, on the other hand, evokes the texture of an overcooked burger. To the band's credit, its four members have, throughout years of playing sold-out stadiums, achieved a certain level of instrumental proficiency. And they do look up to the right role models. In the past, they covered Rubén Blades , and on this outing they enlist the bewitching voice of Dominican songwriter Juan Luis Guerra on ``Bendita Tu Luz"-- a lilting ballad with the subtlest hint of Afro-Caribbean fervor. Maná's Holy Grail would appear to be the perfect rock anthem, but the album's antiseptic production work gets in the way of any seriously haunting moods. I suppose this kind of slickly manufactured pop-rock could work a perverse sort of magic if you happened to be drunk beyond your senses at a trashy beach resort. The question is: Would you really want to be there to begin with?




On its third album, Mexican electronic indie rock quintet Kinky cleverly works the silk-thin line between refining and reinventing. On ``Reina," the bolder funk edge feels like a new direction, yet Kinky's seamless fusion of dance, electronic, and Latin textures with organic rock instrumentation -- not to mention the band's utterly infectious songwriting -- remains the disc's bedrock. The 12 self-produced tracks switch between English and Spanish lyrics -- that is, if there are words at all. Kinky's evocative music and beguiling slithery beats render words a redundant communication. Especially as ``Reina" is a dance set, albeit the thinking-party-person's soundtrack. Deep house funk cuts such as the sumptuous, guitar-heavy ``Una Linea de Luz" and ``Again and So On," which has a repetitive Tejano-flavored dance groove and features accordion player Ricky Muños, are astute corporeal pleasures. But the hip-hop- powered ``Lay Back" exclaims, ``This is as good as it gets. . . . Life is [expletive] and then you die." A sentiment that could bring down any party. Soon, though, Kinky slips into the airy, sublime ``Nothing Really," cooing a sweet refrain: ``I always knew that nothing really matters, nothing really matters, only you." Life's tough, then you redefine.


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