Few countries in the world (especially outside the Anglophone world) have embraced rock as a genre as much as Argentina. As influences from the biggest acts in the U.S. and U.K. reached the nation during the 1960s and 1970s, local artists began to create a distinctly Argentine form of rock, with lyrics in Spanish and a whole host of references to the country’s rich literary and cultural history. Artists and bands such as Luis Alberto Spinetta and Charly García still remain wildly influential figures in Latin American rock, in addition to arguably the most influential of them all: Soda Stereo.
The trio consisting of frontman Gustavo Cerati, bassist Héctor Bosio and drummer Charly Alberti have sold more than 20 million copies and to this day can fill stadiums all over Latin America. However, one of the highest points in Cerati’s musical career came after the band’s breakup, with the release of his 1999 solo album Bocanada, a daringly diverse and inventive album that still sounds fresh when many of its contemporaries did not age nearly as well.
Calling Bocanada a traditional rock album would be quite a disservice to its eclecticism. Cerati’s guitars are the only typical rock clichés on the opener “Tabú,” which sits upon a simple three-note bassline and energetic drums. His voice, a smooth croon which has a lot more self-assurance compared to the rather nasal Spinetta, sings, “Cerca del nuevo fin tabú, fuego y dolor La selva se abrió a mis pies Y por ti, tuve el valor de seguir” (“Near the new end taboo, fire and pain The jungle opened at my feet And for you, I had the courage to go on”). Cerati follows with a trip-hop reminiscent pair of tracks “Engaña” and “Bocanada.” Both recall tracks from groups such as Zero 7 with their programmed drums and a pleasant, “adult contemporary” radio station mellowness which he breaks up at points with psychedelic, fuzzy guitars and other small touches.
Cerati continues this flirtation with electronic elements on later tracks such as the gorgeous “Rio Babel” which features a lovely string refrain. Tracks like this and “Raiz” remind me of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, another ostensibly “rock” album which subtly and skillfully blends a wide variety of instrumentation from acoustic and electronic sources. There are some surprises, with the tracks “Y Si El Humo Esta en Foco” and “Aqui & Ahora (Y Despues)” standing out as entirely instrumental, recalling some of the electronic experiments of the early trip-hop groups of the decade.
After releasing three more solo albums, Cerati met a tragic demise after a large stroke following a concert in Caracas, Venezuela. He fell into a coma soon after and died four years later due to a respiratory arrest. He has been the subject of tributes ever since, from the multitude of Latin American acts he influenced as well as bands like U2. He remains one of Argentina and Latin America’s most iconic musicians.
Daily Arts Columnist Sayan Ghosh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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