Animal Nocturno, Ricardo Arjona's debut album for Sony Music, brought him international fame and stands tall in his back catalog not only as a classic but as one of his most unique efforts. Arjona had begun his recording career several years earlier. Now considered curiosities, Déjame Decir Que Te Amo (1985), Jesús Verbo No Sustantivo (1990), and Del Otro Lado del Sol (1991) found Arjona searching for a musical style that would complement his poetic lyrics. In contrast to Déjame Decir Que Te Amo, on which he was miscast as a balladeer, the latter two albums were successful in that they found him experimenting with a range of pop/rock styles and showcasing himself as a songwriter of exceptional talent. The commercial success of the albums was limited, but they garnered enough acclaim to get Arjona signed to an international recording contract with Sony Music. Like Jesús, Verbo No Sustantivo and Del Otro Lado del Sol, albeit with a bigger budget and a couple more years of artistic growth, Animal Nocturno finds Arjona experimenting with a range of styles and showcasing himself as a songwriter. Energetic rock songs are interspersed with heartfelt ballads, and the instrumentation is heavy on guitar, synthesizer, and drums. In fact, the synthesizers are so omnipresent and there is so much gated reverb on the drums, it sounds as if the album were recorded in the '80s rather than the '90s. It's not necessarily a strike against the album; on the contrary, the outdated musical production of Animal Nocturno is part of its distinction. More than anything, what makes Animal Nocturno such a classic album is the strength of its material. Highlights include "Mujeres," one of Arjona's signature songs; "Jesús, Verbo No Sustantivo," a new version of the song that brought him renown in the first place, and "Primera Vez," the album's hit ballad. Other standouts include "Libre," "Como Olvidarte," "Quien Diria," and "Animal Nocturno." The lyrics of Animal Nocturno are rebellious and bohemian in a way that Arjona's later work isn't. The fame and accolades that followed the release of this album changed him in several ways. In the wake of Animal Nocturno, he grew increasingly sophisticated from both a lyrical and musical standpoint, and he steadily lost the everyman perspective that informs many of these songs. Fans of Arjona's latter-day work who dig this deep into his back catalog should find this album fascinating.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier