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Cafe Tacvba

With rare objection, Café Tacuba is credited far and wide as the preeminent band to have arisen from the rock en español movement of the early '90s. The Mexican four-piece unfortunately isn't well characterized by the rock en español tag, for the "rock music sung in Spanish" descriptor does little justice to the stylistic diversity and creative strides showcased by Café Tacuba over the course of their career. The band employs a standard rock lineup of guitar/bass/drums with vocals, certainly, but the members also incorporate electronics as well as exotic instrumentation into their music, which encompasses styles as divergent as punk and ballads, as well as regional Mexican and ambient electronica. No Café Tacuba album sounds quite like another, for the band generally pursues a grand artistic vision for each project that goes all the way from the scope of the album to which musical styles will be fused, to which collaborators are best suited for the performances, to the actual packaging design of each release. For such creative reasons, Café Tacuba is beloved by critics and cultural observers who appreciate such ambition and originality. On the other hand, legions of followers worldwide are enamored with the band simply because of the music, which is broadly appealing not only because of its distinction but also because of its fun, madcap, and ever-changing manner. This is especially true of the band's first few albums -- Café Tacuba (1992), Re (1994), and Avalancha de Éxitos (1996) -- all of which are endlessly entertaining roller coaster rides of willfully whimsical stylistic fusion. Beginning with Revés/Yo Soy (1999) and continuing with Cuatro Caminos (2003), Café Tacuba grew more challenging and experimental, as well as more mature and earnest. Nevertheless, these later album were their most acclaimed, earning Grammy Awards among other accolades. For legal reasons (and to much confusion, no doubt), the band generally bills itself as Café Tacvba rather than Café Tacuba (replacing the U with a similar-looking V), though the name is proncounced normally, with a U. Comprised of Rubén Albarrán (vocals, guitar; born Rubén Isaac Albarrán Ortega), Emmanuel del Real (keyboards, programming, acoustic guitar, piano, vocals; born Emmanuel del Real Díaz), Joselo Rangel (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals; born José Alfredo Rangel Arroyo), and Enrique Rangel (bass guitar, electric upright bass, vocals; born Enrique Rangel Arroyo), the band began humbly enough, as four friends who played rock music in the garage of a house in their neighborhood, Satélite, an upper-middle-class suburban area in the Naucalpan municipality, in the northern region of the sprawling Mexico City metropolitan area. The guys originally called their band Alicia Ya No Vive Aquí, after the 1974 Martin Scorsese film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. They were influenced principally by alternative rock bands of the '80s like the Cure, the Clash, the Smiths, and Violent Femmes. Despite their English-language influences, they wanted to represent their native culture, so they incorporated Mexican signifiers into their music and they also changed their name. They chose Café Tacuba, which is the name of an old restaurant located on Calle Tacuba a few blocks west of the zócalo (i.e., town square, or plaza) in the Centro Histórico district of Mexico City. The word Tacuba is another name for Tlacopán (which means "florid plant on flat ground"), a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city-state founded on the western shore of Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico. Once Café Tacuba became popular with the release of their debut album, they printed their name with a V in place of the U in Tacuba, thereby steering clear of any legal threat posed by the restaurant of the same name. Café Tacuba made the jump from garage band to concert act in 1989, when they joined the scene surrounding El Hijo del Cuervo, a cultural club showcasing writers and musicians. El Cuervo, as it is sometimes referred, was founded in 1987 in Coyoacán, a southern borough of Mexico City, and has become renowned for the number of significant artists it has presented over the years (Julieta Venegas also notably among them). Other clubs that Café Tacuba haunted early on include El 9, El Tutti Frutti, Rockotitlán, and El LUCC. As they gigged around Mexico City, they caught the ear of Gustavo Santaolalla, who at the time was producing albums for leading bands amid the burgeoning rock en español uprising, namely Maldita Vecindad (Y Los Hijos del Quinto Patio [1989]) and Caifanes (El Diablito [1990]). Santaolalla arranged a contract for the band with WEA Latina, with plans to produce their debut album himself. Café Tacuba in turn proceeded to record their first song for commercial release, "Tamales de Iguanita," which WEA released as part of a Christmas-themed rock en español compilation, Diciembre 25 (1990). Produced by Santaolalla in tandem with his longtime production associate, Anibal Kerpel, Café Tacuba (1992) firmly established the band as one of the most promising acts to arise from the rock en español scene. The thing is, the rock en español tag, while understandably useful in terms of marketing as well as media coverage, didn't do justice to Café Tacuba and their stylistically sprawling debut album. Certainly, rock was a key aspect of the band's sound on the album; however, Café Tacuba fused aspects of innumerable music styles into their music -- from punk and ska, to electronica and hip-hop, to regional Mexican varieties (norteño, bolero, ranchero, et al.) -- to the point where the only common characteristic from song to song was Albarrán's distinct, nasally vocals and the band's guitar/bass/drums instrumental core. The lyrics were likewise wide-ranging from song to song, yet again like the music itself, generally wild and wacky. Café Tacuba spun off numerous singles -- "Maria," "Rarotonga," "Las Persianas," "La Chica Banda," and "Las Batallas" -- with a promotional video filmed for each, with the exception of the latter. The band's recording career was off to a dashing start. Two years later came the follow-up album, Re (1994), which was again helmed by Santaolalla. Even more stylistically careening than Café Tacuba, Re seemed to take the most notable aspects of its predecessor and amplify them: not only are there two-thirds more songs and a broader palette of instrumentation, but the songs are more willfully whimsical (e.g., the industrial metal workout "El Borrego," the norteño parody "La Ingrata"). In fact, Tacuba seem to engage in a game of style-switching throughout the album, rather than the general diversity of their debut; whereas Café Tacuba finds the band incorporating various styles into a given song, all the while maintaining a fairly consistent tone over the course of the album, Re finds the group switching from one style to another on each successive song, for a jarring effect. One could argue that Re is a rejection of the overly simplistic rock en español tag, which most acts labeled as such did indeed loathe, and surely most critics did stand at attention: a comparison was frequently drawn to the Beatles' touchstone White Album, that is, a tour de force showcasing a popular rock band resolutely careening from style to style on one song after another. Re substantially furthered the acclaim showered upon Café Tacuba for their debut album, and a string of hits including "La Ingrata," "Las Flores," and "El Ciclón" ensured a warm reception commercially. Moreover, Re initiated the band's tendency to incorporate collaborators and exotic instruments; in this case, collaborators included Luis Conte and Alejandra Flores, while unconventional rock instrumentation like the jarana, guitarrón, melodeon, and drum machines was employed. Re also began to lay the inroads Café Tacuba would make into the international marketplace; in particular, the band's attendance at the 1995 New Music Seminar in New York helped garner some media attention stateside, where a cult following was beginning to emerge. Meanwhile, Café Tacuba's next release, Avalancha de Éxitos (1996), consolidated their Mexican fan base. The eight-song mini-al

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