Rulo y la Contrabanda

Señales de Humo

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It's hard to say what the trick is to Señales de Humo, but in all probability, it's just good songwriting. It's not stylistic experiment, for sure, the record fits the most base definition of alternative rock: two guitars churning out ever-so-slightly distorted leads and backing riffs, a straightforward rhythm section, guy-next-door vocals (pretty wordy, too, leaving little room for musical rambling), and verse-chorus song structures. Occasionally, the band even does something that could qualify as guitar solos, though, thankfully, it's just melodic breaks, not mindless shredding. And yet Rulo y la Contrabanda are good. From simple but moving acoustic balladry to vaguely Spanish folk rhythms, from melancholic, jangly, Pixies-like tunes to sleek, speedy rockers (the bulk of the record), Rulo succeed in holding your attention despite never resorting to cheap tricks like shouting, whining, cranking it up to 11, or what have you. The tunes sound almost like understatements, but the kind that make you pay close attention, not zone out. This is much harder to pull off than it seems: overdo the rock part and you'll end up pointlessly flamboyant; get too laconic and the music will turn bland, like bad folk with wimpy overdrive. Only hooks can save a band in this situation, and while Rulo y la Contrabanda offer no outright pop hits -- who are they, Ricky Martin? -- they give each song enough individuality to make it matter. In fact, Señales de Humo is a good illustration of the rock urbano (urban rock) movement Rulo y la Contrabanda are associated with.

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