Soda Stereo

2 en 1 [Nada Personal/Canción Animal]

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Some things might not change in the course of five years, but the sound of this band certainly did. Soda Stereo was literally one thing in the '80s and something else again in the '90s, although the group's popularity in its native Argentina was pretty solid through these and a variety of other musical guises. This Sony reissue package is cheap, to be sure, sticking together a 1985 and 1990 album by the group with no information other than a track list and publishing data, plus lots of blank space. Surely such a package should at least take a wing at seeming like the tribute collection it is. How much effort could really be involved in sticking together a few more pictures and reprinting old liner notes? Perhaps the label assumes the Latin American music market knows these guys anyway, and nobody else would care -- all a big miscalculation.

Fans of new wave and hard rock will find plenty to enjoy on these recordings, as would listeners who enjoy pop music with catchy hooks and a beat so solid it would represent a happy economic future for all of Argentina, were it a currency exchange rate and not just a rhythm. The sands of time do shift, however, no matter how solid something is. In the mid-'80s, new wave was the "in" thing, interpreted by Soda Stereo in a series of jagged and funky rhythms, prevailing under the supreme aggression of rhythm guitar playing, the occasional sock chord almost contributing a bit of Count Basie to the proceedings, an effect enhanced by the Benny Carter style alto saxophone solo on "Juego de Seduccion." Most of the record sounds more like the soundtrack to The Monster Squad, though.

By the '90s, a transition had been made from rhythm to lead, at least in terms of electric guitar presence. The 1990 Cancion Animal album's series of anthemic, ripe-for-radio ditties are lathered with the noodlings of axemen, the overall effect exuberant when combined with the group's superb vocalizing. Any stereotypical notions of what the genres of new wave and hard rock might have in terms of obsessive thematic concerns are not exactly upfront issues here. Gustavo Cerati contributes most of the songwriting, with themes that overlap where musical styles do not. "Estoy Azulado," or, "I am blue," he confesses on the earlier album directly after experiencing the aforementioned instrumental describing "the seduction game." Things aren't much better on the second side, where the singer whines about how "Sueles Dejarmo Solo" ("You Are Used to Leaving Me Alone"). Meanwhile, grandiose song themes such as "De Musica Ligera," "Hombre Al Agua," and "Cae el Sol" provide plenty of fodder for the progressive rock livestock pacing in the barn. Sony cut one song from the original album, the provocative "Entres Canibales." While it might not be sensible to assume transparency in the actions of a huge corporation, perhaps this missing track indicates something about the contrast in philosophy between the label and the strong anti-corporate stance of groups such as Soda Stereo.

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