Grupo Montez de Durango
Y Sigue la Mata Dando
lot of Stylus readers (and some of its writers?) will reject this album without even listening to it, because it is Mexican pop music and the guys wear cowboy hats and there is an accordion-sounding keyboard player in the band and the bass sound is made up of tuba honks, and the song titles are “Adios Amor Te Vas” and “Vestido de Color de Rosa” instead of “The Night All the Sad Boys Wept” or “My Kilt is Askew,” or whatever. Which is fine. If you reject Spanish-language music, that is your god-given right, that’s what it’s all about, go for it. But you should understand that you are wrong to do so, for several reasons, which I will now enumerate.
1. Grupo Montez de Durango is not a Mexican group.
They are from Chicago, Illinois, USA. This is one of the new centers of Mexican regional music—generally defined as “Mexican music that can be traced to the folk styles of different regions in Mexico, like norteño or sinaloense, or to other styles like cumbia or banda or corrido or what have you”—which makes sense but is long overdue. It wouldn’t make a difference if they were a Mexican group, but I’m just mentioning it.
2. They are the leaders of a new musical genre.
Grupo Montez de Durango is the most recognizable face of duranguense music, which is not just a new dance craze among Latin aficionados but also now a recognizable style, punctuated by a whole lot of snare drum rolls. Like, seriously, a lot. This band rolls eight deep and has three percussionists, one of whom focuses exclusively on tambora, the Dominican instrument that makes everything sound awesome. This stuff is insanely great, and these guys are the market leaders right now.
3. This is a brilliant piece of pop music.
Here’s how Y Sigue la Mata Dando operates: it rules. There are fourteen songs on the CD (the album package, like many Mex-pop discs these days, also includes a DVD with a video and karaoke tracks); just about all of them use the same basic 2/4 rhythm, but none of them sound the same. Well, to me they don’t sound the same, but to you they probably will, kinda, at least the first time through the album. It might just sound like polka music; in fact, the band itself identifies two of them that way in the notes. I love polka music, but you might think it’s corny.
Listen: I have news for you. ALL MUSIC IS CORNY. Yes, this includes your favorite music, the records you cannot live or breathe without. It’s all contrived, it adheres to certain indefensible clichés, it is entirely unnecessary in a well-ordered society. But this is NOT a well-ordered society we live in. It’s a mixed-up jumbled-up world, we’re all sad or crazed or manic or numb, sometimes all at the same time. We need whatever music, no matter how corny or clichéd, to get us through our days and nights.
And this album is working for me all the way. It’s fast and spazzy, most times; “De Esta Sierra a la Otra Sierra” is quick enough to be d’n’b, and the rolls on “Seis Renglones” are straight out of John Philip Sousa’s dreamscape. Grupo Montez has an amazing way of putting space into their songs between those tuba honks on every other beat, which makes this all sound like it’s somewhat from space. There actually is no real tuba player here; they do this on keyboards, actually, which is good because I don’t think any tuba player could do this, and I know because I was forced to play tuba in junior high.
The group is led by José Luis Terrazas, but he is more like the hype-man; the real vocal gold comes from Adalberto Terrazas, who also plays saxophone, and keyboardist Alfredo Ramírez Corral. Both of them have soaring tenors that can sell ballad-y waltzes like “Te Voy a Esperar” and ornate gothic cumbias like “Esperanzas.” Two-steppin’ duranguense numbers like “Puro Durango” are just unstoppable. The first single, “Quiero Saber de Ti,” debuted at #1 on the Latin charts, and no wonder, because it’s exciting and loud and fun! José shouts and does the “ay yi yi!” thing! It’s all shiny and wondrous and incredibly precise, intricate with neither computer programming nor guitar solos.
Actually, there are no guitars here at all. There IS great drunken trombone playing from Domingo César Ruelas. There IS spot-on harmony. There IS a whole lot of love and craft, which are always sexy. And, for those of you who might still be uninterested in Latin music, there IS a ton of ambition here. The songs just get better and more interesting as it goes along, with the final track, “La Historia,” attaining Jimmy Webb-like levels of compositional intricacy in only 2:25.
But if you want to take a pass on this, go ahead, be my ghost. As the rest of us pass you by, we’ll try not to awaken you from your golden slumber.
STYLUSMAGAZINE.COM’S ALBUM OF THE WEEK: FEBRUARY 28 – MARCH 6, 2005
Reviewed by: Matt Cibula
Reviewed on: 2005-02-28