Back in the late ‘90s, in a city far, far away from England and Jamaica, you could dance to the jauntily infectious sounds of punk, reggae, dub and ska all night. The city was Buenos Aires and the language was Spanish, and bands like Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and Todos Tus Muertos were part of a club scene that rivaled London’s. Now the folks at Nacional Records are bringing it all back with the release of “Todos Tus Muertos Greatest Hits” and “Supersaund 2012,” by ex-Cadillacs bassist Flavio Cianciarulo.
Formed in 1985, Todos Tus Muertos had the kind of tightly insistent riddims; rabid, scalding guitar work; and confrontational politics that earned them comparisons to ‘80s hardcore/reggae band Bad Brains. Front men Pablito Molina and Fidel Nadal took turns snarling out the lyrics as Horacio Vallafane, Felix Gutierrez and Pablo Potenzoni provided the riffs, licks and fat-bottomed beats.
Their hit single, “Andate,” which leads off the album, functions as a manifesto for the band.
Todos Tus Muertos - Andate
“If you don’t like what I’m saying,” sing Molina and Nadal, “Cover your ears/If you don’t like what I’m doing/Get out of here.” The frenzied dub bass lines provide the backdrop for a toasting duel between the two rappers, and echoing guitar soloing fills in the rest of this Argentine reggae sound.
If you prefer faster and louder, “Dale Aborigen” rails against pretty vacant punks who can’t take their minds off of their tattoos or their girlfriends, and even worse, eat meat. In true rasta style, mother Africa is recognized on songs like “Mandela” (bonus dub version included) and “No Mas Apartheid.” The overall lack of pretension, the sometimes-quirky uses of guitars and electric organs, and a surprising rhythmic precision makes “Todos Tus Muertos Greatest Hits” a fascinating listen. Here’s hoping a reunion tour is in the works.
Cianciarulo, who goes by the name Senor Flavio for this album (to be released March 4), has put together a pleasantly eccentric collection of new material. While any sort of astute recycling of Fabulosos Cadillacs style would have been acceptable, “Supersaund 2012” is unabashedly distinct from Flavio’s old band. The rock ballad “Polaroid 66” brings back a decidedly ‘60s electric organ and Link Wray-style guitar flourish that is frankly made for the open road. The briskly paced ska tune “Malito,” with its tongue-twisting vocals and drum crescendos, sounds like a missing gem from an unknown band.
There’s even an odd foray into doo-wop called “La Herida,” and Flavio pulls it off as naturally as he does the British invasion-style “Lucha Libre Lovers.”
Finally, the psychedelic Afro-Cuban swing of “Tropicana 50” (embellished by DJ Bochokemado and a rap by Control Machete’s Pato) is addictively, dizzily danceable.
There have been so many failed attempts by so-called Latin-alternative bands to strive for this kind of kitschy, laid-back fun that when Flavio achieves it so flawlessly you wonder where he’s been all these years. Despite his somewhat slight voice, his ability to create strong tunes with style is strong evidence for just how talented Los Fabulosos Cadillacs were from top to bottom.
Todos Tus Muertos - Mate