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Album Review

Since the mid-'90s, every new album release by Café Tacuba was an event, especially in the band's native Mexico. This was partly because of the band's considerable renown and their reputation for evolving stylistically, but also because new album releases were few and far between. Like Cuatro Caminos (2003) before it, Sino was eagerly awaited by fans of Café Tacuba, the world's most recognized torchbearer of rock en español. The beloved band took their time with both albums — a gaping four years of time for each — yet the wait was worthwhile, as is usually the case with Café Tacuba: the resulting music is abundantly creative, and enriched with fresh musical ideas and well-developed songs. The comparisons end there, though. Whereas Cuatro Caminos was a bold step into the realm of digital-age production — a critically hailed experimental rock album infused with the mannerisms of electronica, it drew frequent comparisons to Radiohead's Kid A/Amnesiac work — Sino finds Café Tacuba scaling back much of the eccentricity of their past several studio albums: the electronica mannerisms of Cuatro Caminos are scaled back, as is the overt experimentation of Revés/Yo Soy (1999), the inside-out genre-twisting of Avalancha de Éxitos (1996), and the White Album-like sprawl of Re (1994). In a way, the scaled-back direction of Sino brings Café Tacuba full circle to their debut, Café Tacuba (1992), for both albums emphasize concise, melodic songcraft above all. There's a distinct lack of humor to be found on Sino, though, as the rather straight-faced, existential tone of the album is a world removed from Café Tacuba's early, often zany work. The band's contrariness remains, albeit there's a more mature, serious approach that relies on lyrical thoughtfulness rather than smart-aleck jokery. The music of Sino is surprisingly straightforward — comprised almost exclusively of vocals, guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards — and in general, the songs are melodic, guitar-driven, anchored by strong choruses, and tend to wrap up in three to four minutes. The big exception is album centerpiece "Volver a Comenzar," a majestic song that clocks in at nearly eight minutes and rides a soaring keyboard riff straight out of the mid-'80s, and also the album-closing "Gracias," which clocks in at six minutes and careens wildly toward the end as the music finally unravels after an hour of precise songcraft.

SINO, Café Tacvba
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