Jarabe de Palo

¿Y Ahora Qué Hacemos?

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The first thing fans of Jarabe de Palo will immediately notice about ¿Y Ahora Qué Hacemos? is that the usual Latin flavor, so predominant in previous albums, has been toned down in favor of a back-to-the-roots classic rock approach. With Jarabe de Palo reduced to a five-member band of bass, drums, and two guitars, plus singer/leader Pau Donés, ¿Y Ahora Qué Hacemos? is definitely a guitar-oriented pop/rock album, strongly reminiscent of Eric Clapton's albums of the 1980s, Dire Straits, or the Pretenders. While it defies comprehension why the sound of 1980s FM lite rock should still be so popular in Spain, one has to acknowledge that Jarabe de Palo are quite good at their job, thanks to Donés' engaging voice and a guitar attack that packs equal amounts of verve and grace. Their songwriting, on the other hand, is largely indifferent -- a comparison with the similar-sounding Fito y los Fitipaldis clearly shows who has the better songs -- but their know-how is enough to ensure another album with a few highlights supported by more than adequate filler. The best moments of ¿Y Ahora Qué Hacemos? are the collaborations with heavyweights such as Joaquín Sabina (the boozy "Hice Mal Algunas Cosas") and Alejandro Sanz in a Spanish cover of Francis Cabrel's "Je l'Aime à Mourir," transformed into your standard Jarabe de Palo mega-hit ballad under the name of "La Quiero a Morir." The other two guests, Carlos Tarque and Antoni Orozco, may be less known to international audiences, but their presence is equally key to enhance the album's variety. Strangely for a pop album, ¿Y Ahora Qué Hacemos? actually improves on its last third, when the band relaxes its muscles in a couple of beautiful slow to midtempo songs, including a tender paean to Donés' child, "Niña Sara." In short, Jarabe de Palo are back with another pleasant collection of feel-good tunes.

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