‘45' looks like a winning number for Mexican rock band Jaguares

Ed Morales
Newsday (MCT)

NEW YORK - Saul Hernandez, lead singer of the Mexican rock band Jaguares, always has been somewhat of a philosopher. "There's an old saying," Hernandez said in a phone interview. "The past doesn't exist, the future is unknown, but the present is a gift, and we have to take advantage of it."

Many fans of the rock en Espanol boom of the 1990s might think that Jaguares is an extension of the glory days of Caifanes, Hernandez's original band, whose albums propelled them to international stardom. But "45" (EMI), Jaguares' new release, is determined more than ever to give this band a strong, separate identity.

"People who've seen us recently think we're a new group," said Hernandez. "When I got the group together to rehearse the new material, I asked everyone to listen to our old albums and try not to do the same thing over again. On '45' there are only two guitar solos; we replaced them with different musical textures."

While much of Caifanes' and Jaguares' material straddled such styles as new wave, progressive rock and classic country-rock, "45" has an aggressive, sometimes dissonant style that conveys a new urgency. Hernandez credits EMI A&R exec Camilo Lara, and studio engineer Howard Willing, who'd worked with the Smashing Pumpkins, with the freedom to create this new sound.

"In a way it recalls our influences from when we were 15 years old, that dark thing from Joy Division or Bauhaus," Hernandez said. "But thematically, the album is very positive because all of the songs suggest a kind of recuperation of the self that brings you to a higher level.

"'Lobo' is a song about someone who falls in love, but then has to leave. 'Entre tus Jardines (Inside Your Gardens)' is about someone who's lost but finds a place he doesn't know and winds up happy. The album closes with 'Y Volvi Para Creer ('And I Came Back to Believe),' which says I want to believe in something again."

The album's title, "45," is a reference to what Hernandez says are the 45 million Mexicans living in poverty. As a songwriter, he engages in a critique of post-NAFTA Mexico, with the songs "Un Mal Sueno (A Bad Dream)" and "Si Fuera Necesario (If It Were Necessary)."

"Traveling around the country you see a very unstable situation, exacerbated by corrupt politicians," he said. "We're living through a bad moment, not just because of the murders, narco trafficking and corruption, but we've forgotten who we are as a people."

Still, there is light in Hernandez's vision. One of the prettiest songs on the album, "Pintame (Paint Me)" offers a ray of hope through the eyes of a child, Hernandez's 8-year-old daughter, Zoey. "I work at home as if I were making breakfast," he said. "I take the guitar and I sit at the sofa and start working right in front of my family.

"One day, Zoey was listening and started singing this melody. I thought it would be interesting for her to be included on the album. So it's her on that track, singing her melody. This song is for the children, and how we must show them the way."

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