Pacto de Sangre

Los Tigres del Norte

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Pacto de Sangre Review

by Alex Henderson

In Spanish, Pacto de Sangre means "Pact of Blood" -- not exactly the sort of title that makes one think of starry-eyed romanticism, but then, starry-eyed romanticism isn't the thing that los Tigres del Norte are best known for. The norteño/Tex-Mex powerhouse hasn't totally excluded romantic lyrics -- los Tigres aren't immune to the pleasures of love, love, love -- but romanticism isn't their primary focus. Mention los Tigres' name to a longtime fan, and the first thing that comes to mind are biting, gritty, hard-hitting accounts of the struggles and challenges that the Mexican working class has faced in both Mexico and the southwestern United States. If you're seeking regional Mexican music that is romantically comforting, you turn to Marco Antonio Solis, Intocable, or Conjunto Primavera; if you're in the mood for a norteño equivalent of the Clash, Rubén Blades, KRS-One, Bob Marley, or Neil Young, you turn to los Tigres -- whose reputation for gutsy, meaningful lyrics certainly isn't going to be damaged by Pacto de Sangre. With this 2004 release, the norteño rebels continue to offer compelling accounts of Mexican struggles north and south of the border. The best sociopolitical songs -- the Clash's "Career Opportunities," Gil Scott-Heron's "The Bottle," Grandmaster Flash's "The Message," or Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues," for example -- have a way of making the political personal, and that is certainly true of this CD. Not that the listener has to relate to los Tigres' subject matter in order to appreciate Pacto de Sangre on a musical level; the polka-influenced grooves are infectious even if one doesn't speak any Spanish. And not everyone who speaks Spanish will have firsthand knowledge of everything los Tigres write about; someone who has spent his/her entire life in Barcelona or Buenos Aires won't be writing songs about their experiences growing up in Mexican neighborhoods. But then, Bob Marley's and Peter Tosh's accounts of black life in Jamaica touched millions of nonblack, non-Jamaican listeners -- and similarly, many of the issues that los Tigres tackle on Pacto de Sangre (crime, poverty, economic deprivation) have international implications. Both musically and lyrically, Pacto de Sangre is an exciting addition to los Tigres' sizable catalog.

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