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Expectativas Review

by Thom Jurek

After four years, two volumes of duets, archive sets, and an MTV Unplugged album, Spain's iconic rock & roller returns with an album of original studio material. The two pre-release singles, the rowdy swaggering "La Actitud Correcta" and the cinematic midtempo ballad "Parecemos Tontos" (as well as the fantastic Jose Girl-directed "in-the-studio" YouTube video), prepared fans for one of Bunbury's most ambitious, intense, and soulful records. Backed by Los Santos Inocentes, the Spanish shapeshifter has constructed an album around the addition of Santiago de Campo's distinctive saxophone playing. It is a primary instrument in this mix -- uncommon in Spanish rock. In addition, Bunbury, who produced the date himself in Los Angeles, also employs an army of vintage keyboards including mini-Moog, Prophet and the Juno 60 synthesizers, and a Mellotron.

Expectativas is split into halves. The first reflects Bunbury as a social critic who rails on everything from crime, murder, and mediocrity to culture and politics in swaggering rock & roll terms. The second part is delivered almost exclusively in the first person; it's even darker, but also vulnerable. The listener cannot help but be wrapped inside Bunbury's personal, sometimes harrowing sound world. Check the bleating, distorted tenor sax that competes with the guitars and drums for dominance on opener "La Ceremonia de Confusion." "Cuna de Cain" weds the horn to shuffling breakbeats, sweeping keyboards, and lilting guitars as Bunbury wails from the depths. "Lugares Comunes, Frases Haches" is almost schizophrenic, moving between anthemic guitar rock and angular synth grooves. It's ultimately the light before the darkness as the moody, threatening synth pulse in "Al Filo de un Cuchillo" claims the center, only to be countered by spiky guitars, noir-ish saxophone, and Bunbury intoning the lyrics with a taut passion that borders on dread until the gorgeous chorus delivers him. "Bartelby (Mis Dominios)" is an existential, angsty rocker whose protagonist drops out of society after completing his duties as a husband, father, and taxpayer to observe the foolish world from his watchtower. Its drama is tempered by the kiss of flamenco. It prefaces the atmospheric, squalling "My Libertad," where Bunbury proclaims his right to the absolute freedom of an animal after a lifetime of pain. The mood lifts in "La Constante," a redemptive love song that pledges commitment, dedication, and gratitude. Bunbury's strident vocal is accompanied by Mellotron, melodic guitars, shimmering mini-Moog, cymbals, and layered reverb, followed by del Campo's shining solo. The set-closer "Supongo" is pure drama: It's uncertain and unnerving lyrically, while the music is transcendent in its resistance to surrender. Bunbury and Los Santos Inocentes stand upright on "the shifting sands" where we all eventually sink. This testament is an embrace of the present moment as if it is the last. They commit to living fully within it. After the pop success of Palosanto, Bunbury restlessly ups the creative ante. Expectativas is the riskiest record he's cut to date. His roaring defiance here is not only evidence of his unfettered vision, but of his integrity.

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