Puertorriqueño Madman Surfs the Avant Wave
Abraham Gomez-Delgado is, for all intents and purposes, Zemog el Gallo Bueno. (Note the palindromic similarity.) He writes, directs, sings, and plays an unhealthy amount of instruments on this, the group’s second album. He’s got a lot to say about Latin music and about the history and treatment of Puerto Rico by the U.S. Fortunately, he says it bravely, like a superhero, and beautifully, like he’s had 30 albums out instead of just two. He needs to be on your radar, like, NOW.
Sometimes, Zemog just throws caution to the winds and pulls off insanely fast burners like “Assimilate Asimilar”, probably the most furious protest song of the year and certainly the least subtle; lyrics like “Georgie Porgie murder here / Georgie Porgie murder there / Georgie Porgie does not care” make Kanye West seem reactionary and over-cautious. But the Spanish-language lyrics, about how the U.S. needs to adjust its attitude to all the other countries in the world, are on point, as is the ow-my-pants-are-on-fire beat.
There’s not a lot of respite here; the next song, “Atawalpa,” is almost as fast, and features a healthy infusion of electro-squiggles to help it tell the story of the last Incan emperor. But things are not always serious – “El Limón” is a funny spooky Cuban-ish tune about, well, the difference between lemons and limes. He’s got a lot of people helping him out, and all of them can lay down a polyrhythm like nobody’s business.
Even when Zemog slows down, as in “Al Piso” (sounding very Andean with cool flutishness) or the smooth “El Jardín Suspira”. we’re still talking about a whole lot of sounds in a little space. But most of the pieces here are as fast as Gomez-Delgado can make them, like this is his way of fighting against the injustices of his world. The closing tune, “Gordo Rojo”, is probably the tightest and tensest tune of the year, and the fact that it is about the imperialism of Santa Claus is just extra sauce on that tasty meal.
It’s hot, it’s cool, it’s weird (the ends of many songs go a little haywire in the best way). It’s traditional, it’s deeply American in a deeply anti-American way. Zemog is no joke, people.