Estopa

¿La Calle Es Tuya?

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Fewer than four years passed between Estopa's debut and the release of ¿La Calle Es Tuya?, winner of Best Album honors at the 2004 Barcelona Ondas Awards. Brothers David and José Antonio Rodriguez Muñoz continue to crank out cheeky and wildly charismatic flamenco-infused pop, though by this third go-round, what stands out is the increasing unlikelihood that they will graduate anytime soon from their present level of national acclaim to take a place on the world stage. The 12 new songs here, while not completely inconsistent with their earlier work, manage less often to translate the rhythmic and harmonic structures of flamenco into the international language of pop music than to bring unfortunate rock & roll clichés home.

This negative trade balance appears in the very first song, "Fin de Semana," in which Anye Bao's drum kit runs roughshod over traditional contrapuntal palmas (hand clapping) and the whole thing careens over the edge of a riff the Rembrandts built for Friends; while later songs, like "Ya No Me Acuerdo," maintain more rhythmic and stylistic coherence; these also lack any truly Spanish ánimo that might distinguish them from the masses.

Happily, there are exceptions. Near the album's close, the brothers return in imagination to the auto factory where they wrote some of their most delightfully escapist early hits. This time, however, it's the relentless and robotic pace of the assembly line that wins. The melodic hook of "Pastillas de Freno" ("Brake Shoes") overpowers the listener, compelling a singalong a toda pastilla -- at top speed. It's irresistible -- and as a preview of what the talented brothers might someday produce if they get the flamenco-to-rock en español gear ratios worked out -- a real one to watch.

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