Music

Kinky: Barracuda

Evan Sawdey

Mexico's greatest trans-global dance act finally transform into the electro-rockers that they've always hinted at becoming to solid, if somewhat mixed, results.


Kinky

Barracuda

Label: Nettwerk
US Release Date: 2009-02-24
UK Release Date: Unavailable
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We all knew it was going to happen eventually, and with Barracuda, it finally has.

Kinky -- the trans-global Mexican dance-rock act -- have finally shed the worldbeat affectations that have previously defined their sound, and finally turned into the sleek electro-pop purveyors that they've secretly wanted to be ever since their 2002 debut album. Though 2006's Beck-influenced Reina showed the band slowly moving into more mainstream club territory, it's on Barracuda that they finally complete their transition. With the occasional production assist by keyboard-pop genius/Beastie Boys collaborator Money Mark, Kinky's eyes are now focused on the dancefloor and nothing but -- something we can all be very grateful for.

The disc opens with lead single "Hasta Quermarnos", a full-bodied hip-hop track that proves to be a bit of a red herring, as no other track on the disc even tries to match the street-level sound that the band is aiming for. Yet when "Papel Volando" starts up, Barracuda's template is quickly established: we're treated to fat basslines, hyper drum machines, New Order guitar licks, and tons of energetic keyboard flourishes. Though virtually every song on the album carries these basic qualities, some utilize these elements better than others. "Those Girls" -- a genuine stadium-ready rocker -- is based around a fantastically stupid pop chorus that's aided by some neat little guitar riffs, closer "Tus Huellas, Mis Pasos" floats in a sea of staccato synth plucks that wouldn't sound too out of place on Beck's The Information, and "Marcha Atras (Viaje a la Semilla)" is fuelled by a bassline so thick you can practically sink your teeth into it.

Yet as exciting as all of these stylistic detours are, there are more than a few occasions where the band's need to be eclectic overrides their ear for a good melody, particularly during the soggy middle half of the album. "Avion" is a drab, forgettable guitar rocker whose only saving grace is the transcendent chorus (which just means you have to survive the insufferable rapped verses to get to it), and the two-minute "Diablo Azul" feels more like a sketch than an actual song -- it's simplistic chord progression is as anemic as they come. The two part disco-rock suite of "Masacre Sonica"/"The Day I Lost the Beat" could also have been cut without hurting anyone's feelings. In fact, every thing they get wrong during this middle portion is fixed during the album's final third, wherein they actually pull off punky rock numbers ("Tachimaripedóncocongo") and dance-guitar hybrids ("Por La Boca") with remarkable ease.

Yet even the weaker moments don't last for long, as the band has realized the power of brevity this time out. Only one of the album's 14 songs cracks the four-minute mark, making Barracuda a remarkably concise little dance record. No song overstays its welcome, the best tracks even leaving you begging for more. This is the sweatiest, most accessible record that the band has yet released, which makes its middle third all the more disappointing given the great songs that surround it. It's great to hear the band finally come into their own skin -- now all they need is an even better record to solidify that identity. With that said, though, Barracuda is still a pretty good start to Kinky 2.0.

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