Los Fantasmas del Caribe


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This is one case where you might be better off just getting the disc without knowing anything about Los Fantasmas del Caribe, as their videos and visual presentation in general are embarrassingly bad. Even in 1993 their felt pirate getup was dated -- they looked like a Chippendales version of Adam Ant. Seeing even one of their lip-synced travesties is enough to make you swear off owning anything by them. In their native Venezuela, people are still doing penance for Los Fantasmas' wild initial success. To suggest that they were actually pretty good may give some Latin music fans the fits. However, like it or not, the music on this disc is mostly everything that tropical music should be. It is catchy, and not just rhythmically. Los Fantasmas (or at least Luis Alva) knew how to write pop songs. More importantly, their cheesy synthesizer-preset sound makes them sound like they are playing live the whole time. There is a kind of intimacy to this record. They all sing at once, most of the time, which makes for a democratized anonymous sound. They sound like a group of teenage boys with $200 super store keyboards and synth drum pads gathered around a swimming pool. That is why they are great. They were maybe the only tropical band that sounded like a tropical cover band. And while the lyrics are nothing special, they frankly aren't much worse than any other tropical hit song. The highlights are the first two songs -- "Muchacha Triste" and "Ella Es," the latter of which is a perfect blend of rock anthem harmony with a cumbia rhythm. They can't sustain that level of craftsmanship through the whole record, but they do sustain the atmosphere.

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