Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review, Cafe Tacuba, Sino

“Sino” is Cafe Tacuba’s sixth studio album and first since “Cuatro Caminos” which was released four years ago and it’s exactly what you would expect from Cafe Tacuba – something completely sinounexpected.  Cafe Tacuba has made a career that is almost two decades old (they formed in 1989) out of performing an incomprehensibly wide range of music in a completely unpredictable manner and doing all of it superlatively well.  When they release a new album you can expect two things; you’ll have no idea what’s on it until you listen and it will be excellent.  “Sino” fulfills those expectations beautifully.

Cafe Tacuba are Ruben Isaac Albarran Ortega (vocals, guitar); Emmanuel “Meme” del Real Diaz (keyboards, programming, acoustic guitar, piano, vocals), Jose “Joselo” Alfredo Rangel Arroyo (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals), and Enrique “Quique” Rangel Arroyo (bass guitar, electric upright bass, vocals).  Ruben Albarran rends to take on a new name with every album or tour with the result that he has too many nicknames to list.  For much of their career they have toured and recorded with programmed drum machines but Victor Indrizzio and Luis Ledezma play drums on “Sino”, one of it’s many surprises.  Another surprise is that a band that has eschewed live drumming ends the album with “Gracias” which includes a drum solo by Indrizzio that is everything a drum solo should be, rhythmic and melodic rather than merely bombastic, fast and loud.

So, beside including a live drummer, what’s surprising about the music on “Sino”?  And what can a band that has put out albums that melded uncountable styles of music into single songs (“Cafe Tacuba”), jumped from style to style from one song to the next (“Re”), included a CD of ambient electronica as part of a two disc set (“Reves/Yo Soy”), combined electronics and rock in a big way (“Cuatro Caminos”) do that is different?  On “Sino” Cafe Tacuba strip out almost all of the studio electronics to produce a fundamental guitar/bass/drums rock album that is deeply and heavily influenced by music from the ’60s through the ’80s.  It sounds like they returned to the music they grew up with on “Sino” and it’s brilliant.  Time and time again when listening to “Sino”  a huge smile will light up your face and you’ll say “That’s The Who”, “That’s The Beatles”, ” . . .  the Beach Boys”, ” . . the Supremes”,  ” . . aargh, who is that? I know that style, can’t quite remember .  .”  It’s not uncommon for bands to do music in the style of past greats but what makes “Sino” so terrific is the breadth of Cafe Tacuba’s vision – every song is different – and that although they clearly are referencing one group or another they make each style their own by incorporating it into their own type of music.  With iconic groups like The Who, Beatles and Beach Boys that is almost unimaginably difficult to do and yet Cafe Tacuba pulls it off.  There is nothing copy-cat about “Sino”.

My Spanish has advanced to the point where on “Sino” I am beginning to be able to pick out phrases here and there but I can’t yet understand coherent discourse so I don’t know what Cafe Tacuba are singing about.  The emotion is often clear and the vocal harmony work is often lovely but the details are lost on me.  I’m going to have to do something about that because just looking at the album’s title indicates that these guys probably write lyrics that repay careful attention.  In its most common usage “Sino” means “but” in something like the sense of “on the other hand”.  Sino (lol) it can also mean “fate” which might suggest something along the lines of the idea that our fate is not locked in to a preordained and uniform path but is rather to face choice.  On the one hand we could do this, but on the other we could do that.  That idea is reinforced by “sino” being a combination of “”si” and “no” – yes/no, this/that, one hand or the other, make a choice.  And this from a band who has always made the choice of going their own way and controlling their own fate.  If a single word title can suggest all these things, what might the full set of lyrics do?  I’m going to have to learn more Spanish.

There are very, very few groups who can manage extended careers where every album they release is a musical, not a marketing or a fanboy but a musical, event.  The Beatles did it.  Radiohead is doing it.  And so are Cafe Tacuba.  I wanted to say that they are a Mexican National Treasure but that would be a mistake.  Cafe Tacuba are a World Treasure.  You should listen to this album.


11/13/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews


  1. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

    Pingback by Singing Lessons » Blog Archive » Review, Cafe Tacuba, Sino | 11/14/2007 | Reply

  2. to be honest
    Volver a comenzar
    wants to sound like things of The Sea & Cake
    and Pet Sounds

    Sino it’s an album full of influences
    and where is Cafe Tacuba?

    it’s their own music?
    don’t think so

    Comment by Juanjo | 06/13/2008 | Reply

  3. […] vocal harmonies or Sgt Pepper’s type instrumentation can be found from bands as diverse as Cafe Tacuba, Panic at the Disco, and Dr. […]

    Pingback by Review: Jim Noir, Jim Noir « Tuned In To Music | 07/04/2008 | Reply

  4. […] and sing.  Among the more notable are jazz clarinetist Anat Cohen who plays on five tracks, Cafe Tacvba’s lead vocalist (calling himself Ixaya Mazatzin Tleytol this time around) who sings on […]

    Pingback by Review: Lila Downs, Shake Away « Tuned In To Music | 02/20/2009 | Reply

  5. I had fun reading this post. I want to see more on this subject.. Gives Thanks for writing this pleasant article.. Anyway, I

    Comment by mon | 03/28/2010 | Reply

  6. […]  Bands like War and Mandrill combined mainly Caribbean rhythms with funk, disco and soul.  Cafe Tacvba has combined Mexican musics with just about anything you can imagine.  The brilliant band from […]

    Pingback by Review: Choc Quib Town, Oro « Tuned In To Music | 06/03/2010 | Reply

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