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I will buy:
Only the Cowboys Fringants box set 0%
Only the Café Tacuba box set 33%
Both the box sets 0%
The complete catalog of both bands 0%
Everything em recommends I buy, now and always 66%

Votes: 3

 Classic rerelases: Caf? Tacuba, Les Cowboys Fringants

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Nov 20, 2001
Today November 20, 2001, we witness two box sets rereleasing early records by two brilliant bands:
  1. Lo esencial de Café Tacuba (WEA/Latina), by Café Tacuba
  2. A box set comprising 12 grandes chansons and Sur mon canapé (La Tribu), by Les Cowboys Fringants (which will be available online sometime at Archambault).

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Les Cowboys Fringants

Les Cowboys Fringants are a tight little 5-piece "country" band from Repentigny, Québec. They are suspended in some twilight region between gag band and serious band. This in the sense that they can sound spine-chillingly serious in their gags (see my comments on their song "Mon pays"), and their more serious moments are still delivered lightly. After the success of last year's Motel Capri, the rerelease of their first two self-produced albums gives us all an opportunity to discover the early music of this unique band and its world-class songwriting.

The band plays simple but very tasteful arrangements. The musical centers of the group are the talented fiddler/accordionist/mandolinist, Marie-Anick Lépine, who subtly puts on the melody to the straighforward acoustic guitar/bass/drum arrangements, and Karl Tremblay's passionate singing.

Sur mon canapé has older versions of a few songs that were rerecorded in Motel Capir. The album kicks off with the already classic Marcel Galarneau, a fast sing-along number about Marcel, an used-car salesman from St. Hilaire, and his attempts at making a fortune. He, in an apparent incident of senility, sells his own car. He gets into trouble with an apparent mafia don because of some murky business with his daughter:

Le vieux fou a pas aimé ça
Que j'fourre sa fille long comme le bras
Y'é t'arrivé a'ec sa marchette
en m'pointant a'ec sa mitraillete

Marcel decides to strike it rich: he starts importing contraband dental floss from the US, hiding it in "Export A" cigarette cartons. Sadly for him, customs doesn't bother to look inside them when he insists they're full of dental floss and not cigarettes. He gets thrown in jail, and the final chorus admonishes him:

Oh Marcel! Oh Marcel Galarneau!
Tu f'ras ben attention
Avant de rammasser ton savon,
Mon Marcel Galarneau!

Track 2, "Le Plombier" (The Plumber), one of the highlights of this album, is about a little incident, but one whose kind, played out through thousands and thousands of encounters, constitutes one of the major phenomena of modern capitalist industrial societies: class war.

The song is sung from the point of view of a young, apparently unengaged, male yuppie. From the very first verses, he inspires dislike:

Juste comme j'partais pour le squash
Avec mon satchel Adidas
Mes runnings a Velcro
Pis mon chandail de Mexico

Fucking yuppie bastard, we don't care how much money you have, your Mexico shirts, or your brandname dropping. Happily, something bad happens to him:

Les égouts on r'foulé
La bécosse a debordé
Y'avait des coliformes fecaux
Qui flottait su'l terrazo

WOOHOO!!! SHIT AND PISS ALL OVER YOUR APPARTMENT, YOU YUPPIE BASTARD!!! (For the French impaired: the quoted lines describe the sewer blocking, the toilet overflowings, and fecal coliforms on the balcony. Strike one for the proletariat.)

So he grabs the phonebook and calls the first number under the plumbing section of the yellow pages: Amazons Plumbing. Then he gets, well, what do you expect: a plumber. One called Guy Lafleur, just like a famous hockey player (the theme of ordinary people named just like famous people runs through the Cowboy's music). Our narrator, of course, doesn't like him, he's not good enough for him. So the rest of the song is about the yuppie kid whining about how disgusting and rustic the plumber is, how slow he supposedly is at fixing the plumbing, and how he should be playing squash with his officemates instead of having to deal with this plumber guy.

And therein lies the challenge and the genius of the song: what are we to make of the complaints of such a disgusting character, this yuppie? The Cowboys manage to make a song whose content is almost wholly about one character saying bad things about the other into a song condemning the guy nothing is said about. For all the yuppie might say about the plumber could even be true, and this fact wouldn't change: the plumber is friendly. LONG LIVE THE PROLETARIAT!

Track 6, "Denise Martinez", continues the aforementioned theme of people with names like those of famous people. The Montreal Expos may have Denis Martínez, the baseball star, but they also have Denise Martinez, the daughter of a Guatemalan immigrant who wears an orange-fur costume and works as their mascot. This song is the story of her life.

Track 7, "Mon Pays (Reel des Aristocrates)", is where the gags suddenly become spine-chilling. The song is a parody of the history of Québec separatism. The recurring theme: the Québécois were conquered by the English, and have never managed to free themselves, because they drink too much. The song starts by recalling the events of the 7 Year War, when France lost Québec to the English, and giving them a peculiar twist: the French lost because they drunk like bastards while the English prepared their attack:

Si Montcalm avait pas été saoul
Si l'armée avait pas pris un coup
Les Anglais frappait leur Waterloo

Le Québec c't'une histoire de boisson
Y'a d'argent á faire a'ec les saoulons...
Y'ont ouvert la Brasserie Molson.

Who could fail to be taken aback by these powerful lines?

The song goes on, relating different groups, moments, incidents of Québécois separatism, and weaving alcohol into their failure, to finally cynically call out a "tu mettras les bières dans l'cooler!" that despite the content, sounds like a spine-chilling battle cry:

Depius c'temps là on s'est écrasé
On passe not' temps devant la télé
À jouer au dart su'l vidéoway

Ramène les bouteilles au dépanneur
Fais ça vite ça ferme à onze heures
Tu mettras les bières dans l'cooler!

Track 12, "Banlieu" (also rerecorded for Motel Capri), is a touching song about growing up in the suburbs and first love. The first half of the song tells of children's games, getting in trouble for loudly hitting a garage door with a hockey ball, reaching teen age and widening the social network, first death of a neighborhood friend in a car accident, droppping out of Cegep, and such. The second half of the song, the first love part, seems unrelated to the first; the protagonist falls in love, but after some time, she finds someone else and tells him off, which hurts him badly, and drives him to drink for two weeks. The beatiful ending:

L'automne y'est r'venu par la porte d'en arrière
Dans ma banlieu la nuit est belle pis y'a d'l'espoir
La pleine lune reflète pareil comme un miroir
Sur l'eau des piscines hors-terre

This song may sound ordinary on paper, but it must be heard to be appreciated. The melody is simple and beatiful, and performed just right. It manages to make suburbia, that dreadful USian invention, product of the failure of urban planning, sound beautiful.

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba is Mexico's best rock band. The rerelease box set comprises their first three albums: 1992's eponymous Café Tacuba, their 1996 "covers" album Avalancha de Éxitos (a brilliant gag where none of the covers sounds in any way like the originals; hell, they play a huasteco version of the world's most famous merengue song, Ojalá que llueva café), and most importantly, 1994's magnum opus, Re, where they breeze through some of the 20 most varied and brilliant songs ever put together in one album.

The Café Tacuba sound is truly unique; sweet nylon-string guitar, meaty acoustic bass playing and organic-sounding keyboards over visceral drum machine beats. And the high, lonesome voice of the lead singer. And those vocal harmonies.

The first track of Re is "El Aparato", a song about space aliens kidnapping peasants. If it weren't for the head-ripping electronic beats at the end, you could mistake this for a countryside Mexican song.

They have the finesse of following up a hardcore song, "El Borrego", with a violin-tinted mixture of bolero and tango in "Esa Noche", and then the (literally) manic pop of "24 horas"; in a subtle put down to happy shiny pop, the singer declares that he wants to live 24 hours a day, and, compulsively insomniac, runs around:

Cuando llego a tu lado me siento y a descansar
mas mi amor perdóname
pues empiezo a pensar
en todo lo que hay que hacer
ya se me fue el día otra vez
Salgo de tu casa y empiezo a correr

Track 10, "El fin de la infancia", is the band's artistic manifesto:

Hay gente que dice que el baile es sólo una diversión
Y el hit parade extranjero se lleva la comisión.
¿Cuándo me quitare el miedo a sentirme en la vanguardia?
Sin tener que ir a New York para ver allá qué pasa.
¿Seremos capaces de bailar por nuestra cuenta?
¿Seremos capaces de bailar?
¿Seremos capaces de pensar por nuestra cuenta?
¿Seremos capaces de pensar?
¡Basta ya de interrogar!

The song, literally about dancing, succeeds in politicizing dance. Dancing on our own, and that is dansing to our own music and not surrendering to the corporate hit parade nor to New York fashion whims, is equated to thinking on our own. It also bears mentioning the sound in this song: a punkish backbeat, accompanied by a Mexican metals banda, complete with a tuba.

Track 12, "Pez", is a brilliant little song about a fish taken out of a fish tank, put inside a plastic bag with water (apparently this happens in a pet shop), and then taken out of the bag into the open air-- the song ends with the mystery of what's going to happen next; is there a fish tank in waiting for the poor little fish?

The trick to the song, however is the lyrics; it is sung from the perspective of the fish, who of course doesn't understand what's happening:

Siento que me han escogido
Pues unos ojos me miran sólo a mí.
He's being taken by some unknown superior being that he can't comprehend. He's heard over his life vague stories about what happens when he's taken out of his world, the fishtank:
Ésto alguien ya me lo contó
que sientes asfixia al salir.
Pero ésto nunca me lo esperé
A esta presión quién puede vivir.
He gets put into the water-filled plastic bag:
Otra vez en mi elemento
Pero en espacio pequeño
No hay arriba, no hay abajo
Todo es movimiento

There the fish gets a revelation:

Y ahora creo saber que algún ser
Me lleva ya a un gran lugar
Then he gets taken out of the bag, falls into a grey surface, and the water drains away. The song ends with our hero asking himself what's the meaning of all this:
¿Qué nadie se ha dado cuenta?
¿O será mi nuevo hogar?
¿Qué nadie se ha dado cuenta?
¿O será éste mi final?

We never find out.


These albums are essential additions to any musical collection. There is no way anybody anywhere could fail to appreciate these masterpieces. After all, music is the universal language. Go buy them, now. (Of course, to buy them please use our convenient Amazon links...)


I found an error in your judgement (none / 0) (#2)
by theboz on Tue Nov 20th, 2001 at 07:11:44 AM PST
Café Tacuba is Mexico's best rock band.

No, Molotov is. Café Tacuba is still pretty good though, and I remember the song they did for that movie "Amores Perros" or something like that. I'll probably wait to get their CD when I'm in Mexico as the U.S. sucks to buy foreign music.

Please sir, no trolling (1.00 / 1) (#3)
by Adam Rightmann on Tue Nov 20th, 2001 at 08:57:46 AM PST
While statements of this sort I'll probably wait to get their CD when I'm in Mexico as the U.S. sucks to buy foreign music may fly on Self-hating American, some of the more reactive members of this site may consider that to be trolling.

A. Rightmann

Feel free to prove me wrong (none / 0) (#5)
by theboz on Tue Nov 20th, 2001 at 10:46:34 AM PST
However, I have had a hard time finding any Molotov CDs other than "Apocalypshit" here. Also, I have been completely unable to find a store that carries any Plastilina Mosh music. I know I could order it online from or something like that, but I would like to be able to walk into a store and purchase it. So I challenge you to find a store where I could find this music available for sale.

It's not hating myself, liberals, or the U.S. It's just speaking the truth from my experience of being unable to find decent Mexican music in the U.S.

Where do you live? (none / 0) (#13)
by RobotSlave on Mon Nov 26th, 2001 at 10:43:29 PM PST
If you're in an American city of adequate size, then you've been shopping in the wrong neighborhoods.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

Another great hispanic band (none / 0) (#4)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Nov 20th, 2001 at 09:19:01 AM PST
Another great Hispanic band is the Argentenian rock outfit Fabulosos Cadillacs. I once transposed two numbers on a mail-order CD form and got one of their albums by mistake. Let me assure you, though, they rock! But don't take my word for it, read what has to say about them:

Oppvarmingsbandet spiller på en av Michael Jacksons musikkvideoer. Hovedbandet har fått historiens første Grammy i klassen for alternativ latinamerikansk rock. Lørdag var vi over 100 000 på gratiskonsert i Buenos Aires

I have no idea what that says, but I'm sure it's glowingly positive. Likewise, here's some fine words form "En nuestro país ya se comienza a respirar un agitado clima de ansiedad y alegría por la llegada de estos argentinos." Again, I'm not sure what that means, but I'm sure they love the band!

So what are you waiting for? RUn right out and get your hands on some Los Fabulosos Cadillacs records! You won't be sorry!

Well, (none / 0) (#7)
by tkatchev on Tue Nov 20th, 2001 at 11:41:26 PM PST
As long as we're talking about ethnic music, I can't help but plug my own site:

Authentic ethnic music.

Have fun.

Peace and much love...

I got your garmonija right here (none / 0) (#8)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Nov 20th, 2001 at 11:53:28 PM PST
СПС и "Яблоко" объединяются вокруг военной реформы: борьба продолжается - Главное
Ностальгия по СССР: "Единство" и "Отечество" готовят документацию - Политика
Судебный компромисс Путина, "Белый аист" в Москве, неформальная линия Гражданского форума, Госдума - могильщик офшорных банков - проспект-новости 19-25 ноября
Марина Ионова о тенденциях на мировом рынке нефти, конкуренции доллара и евро и перспективах российского фондового рынка - проспект-комментарии
Иллюзия дружбы. Путин в Новом свете - дипломатия
Система гарантирования вкладов: Сбербанк заплатит за всех, но на компенсации не хватит - тенденции
Ценовая война России с ОПЕК - эпизод или стратегия? Версии, мнения, рацпредложения - нефть
Мартин Шаккум: Деятельность Центробанка должна быть подотчетна государству - интервью
Голландская болезнь, структурные реформы и приоритеты правительства: ретроспектива и перспективы

Whatever. (none / 0) (#10)
by tkatchev on Wed Nov 21st, 2001 at 05:47:01 AM PST
Kind of pointless to just copy-and-paste a news site, don't you think?

Peace and much love...

"Ethnic" music is a sham. (1.00 / 1) (#9)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Nov 21st, 2001 at 01:20:44 AM PST
When what were once freely derived art forms made by individuals in autonomous cultures are today reduced to shallow "exotic" product to be consumed by middle-class "hipsters", it can easily be seen that our late-capitalist society is in its final decadent phase. Like imperialist lackeys "going naitve", as the empire collapses in on itself, the bourgeous hipsters who amuse themselves with foreign exotica like Japanese cartoons, Latin Music, Thai Food, and African Art are merely exploiting the cultures they sanctimoniously pretend to be "down with".

The fact of the matter is, a white, middle-class young person could never understand the brutal everyday realities faced for example by the impoverished latino people who compose Narco Corrido music, and by pretending to, the white hipster is debasing both himself and the culture he exploits for his enjoyment. The hipster's vicarious thrill comes at the cost of other people's actual suffering and destitution. But the buorgeois consumer does not care if he clumsily tramples through other peoples cultures, societies developed over centuries, wrenching out here a song here, there a vase, there a curry dish, to satisfy his miniscule attention span. He engages in this obscene cultural plunder because the shiny objects churned out with ever-increasing desperation by western capitalism are no longer sufficiently interesting.

The truth is inescapable. Late-capitalist society is too sick to survive. For the cultures of the world to renew themselves into strong, free societies, this impure race-mixing must end once and for all. White Revolution Is The Only Solution. To quote the brave White songwriter, Ian Stuart: "Comrades, the voices of the dead battalions / Of those who fell, that Europe might be great / Join in our song, for they still march in spirit with us / And urge us on that we gain the national state / The streets are still, the final battle has ended / Flushed with the fight, we proudly hail the dawn / See over the streets, the white man's emblem is waving / Triumphant standards of a race reborn / Hail The New Dawn!

I prefer a bit of good old UK Garage myself. (none / 0) (#12)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Nov 22nd, 2001 at 11:37:23 AM PST
From the likes of Mark "Ruff" Ryder and his Romford-based Strictly Underground business.


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