Jei Beibi

Café Tacuba

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Jei Beibi Review

by Thom Jurek

Jei Beibi is where Café Tacvba reinvent the pop music of their collective childhood dreams for the 21st century. The Cafetas' first album in five years was cut outside of Los Angeles with longtime producer Gustavo Santaolalla (their "fifth Beatle") and Joey Waronker on live drums (reprising his role from Cuatro Caminos). Here they take on everything from bubblegum pop to R&B, psych to power ballads, cumbia, vallenato, tango, and more. They even deliver an irresistible anthem in opener "1-2-3" that manages to combine elements of them all. You can't make too much of it. No matter the high quality of their three pre-release singles for this one -- the loopy, driving "Futuro," the psych-drenched pop of "Disolviéndonos," or the atypical heartbreak of "Que No" -- "1-2-3" grabs the listener and won't let go. With its cut-time snare, two-chord '80s-styled synth line, and Rubén Albarrán shouting "Hey baby" (the only Anglo words on the record) in the intro, the hook is set. The melody and chorus are inspired equally by Curtis Mayfield and Nile Rodgers, but there's a slick '70s stadium rock feel in the bassline and drums. It's as pure a pop anthem as you're likely to find. "Enamorada" is a slow, spooky, psychedelic tango set to a cumbia rhythm. Spectral keyboards and reverbed guitars frame Albarrán's sultry vocal, but it's actually Enrique Rangel's bassline that contains the hook. Apart from its amazing video, "Futuro" remains a formidable song; its South American folk melody is appended by Waronker's circular tom-tom pounding. While Albarrán and lead guitarist Joselo Rangel share lead vocals, Meme's (aka Emmanuel del Real Diaz) electronics build underneath almost to the tipping point. The Cafetas love folk music. It has been part of every album since 1996. Even on a slickly produced effort like Jei Beibi, they manage to not alter it too much, even when utilizing it for the darkly tinged pop in "Vaiven," where the song is transformed by live percussion resembling a click track accompanied by rumbling marimbas, low-register horns, and spiky electronic effects. Juan Gabriel and Prince would have been proud of the aforementioned "Que No," a heartbreak anthem with a real sexy swagger and soul that could be delivered from any stadium stage with complete crowd participation. Things get a bit unwieldy during the beginning of "Diente de Leon," which eventually reveals itself as a swirling rock & roll waltz with cinematic sweep and feel. The interplay of rhythms and Albarrán's layered vocals is nearly breathtaking. Closer "Celebracion" is exactly that. Fat, walloping kick drums, a bassline that sounds like a tuba, reverbed surf guitars, and bright keys accompany a singalong melody before an orchestral interlude makes everything loopy -- but they never lose the groove. A communal chant -- with a children's chorus for heft -- takes it out in less than three minutes. For all its adventure, Jei Beibi is solidly consistent. There isn't a weak or even unexciting moment here. But then, what else would you expect from one of the world's greatest rock bands?

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