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Must be something about Monterrey.
Picture it: Every year, the Mexican soccer league has two seasons, winter and summer, and before each season kicks off, excitement abounds in all of Mexico's stadiums. Nowhere, though, is the electricity more palpable than in Monterrey, which puts on a jubilant, colorful celebration, complete with booming fireworks. It's the regiomontano spirit -- lots of colors, lots of noise -- which explains why the region is a stronghold for accordion-based music. But it's also home to some of the hottest rockers in Mexico at the moment: In recent years, El Gran Silencio, Plastilina Mosh, Control Machete, Zurdok, Resorte, Jumbo and Genitallica have come onto the scene as though some old Momo-like rocanrol god had created a rock-en-español band with each breath. À la Vishnu.
Add to that list of names a new one, perhaps the best one yet: Kinky. If Tijuana's Nortec Collective was the biggest rocanrol phenomenon in 2001, the Monterrey band's self-titled debut, released this spring on London's Sonic360 (distributed stateside by Nettwerk), is 2002's first great Latin alternative recording.
At first listen, Kinky sounds like just another up-and-coming Latin alternative band deep into electronic music -- or, at least, into electronic gadgets. But though the group embraces the music of its more hip-hop-oriented buddies Control Machete and Plastilina Mosh (who also like to play with toys), there are some differences, both musical and practical. For example, Kinky's live show doesn't suck.
"We bring the whole band, because we're a band of musicians," says Ulises Lozano, Kinky's keyboardist and electronic spirit. His bandmates' musical tastes range from Latin and jazz (Omar Góngora, drums) to rock and trip-hop (singer/guitarist/scratcher Gilberto Cerezo, and singer/guitarist Carlos Chairez) to cumbia, norteña and Tex-Mex (César Pliego, bass). "We're not the type of musicians who create music on a computer and then set up the show."
It takes only one pass at Kinky to understand why its live show is so much better than those of most of the group's Monterrey brethren. Kinky's sound is funkier, groovier, more Latin -- and much closer to straight-up rock and roll -- than the average toy band. "We try to use as many live instruments as we can on stage," says Lozano, and the instrument-switching live experience is a feast for dancers and listeners alike. Meanwhile, the CD is consistently solid, with gems like "Ejercicio #16" (featuring vocals taken from a mom-and-pop calisthenics LP), "San Antonio" (a techno-religious hymn) and "Anorexic Freaks," a guitar-oriented electronica/hip-hop attack.
"These guys have the songs, man," says Allison, who owns Sonic360. The producer first heard Kinky's demos while working on P. Mosh's 2000 release, Juan Manuel. Allison was so impressed that he encouraged the players to send him more music, which they did, and after Kinky triumphed at the 2000 Latin Alternative Music Conference's Battle of the Bands on the strength of the infectious "El Pato," Allison elbowed his way past a crowd of eager label giants (including BMG and Sony) to sign them. The small-label pact surprised and intrigued observers.
"We knew it was an unusual thing to do, but we did it because we like Chris," says Lozano. "He showed an early enthusiasm for the band, and he gave us great creative freedom." Allison, meanwhile, dismisses any suggestion that the deal was unusual for a London label, an attempt to cash in on the growing interest in rock en español. "I'm only interested in working with interesting bands," he says, "no matter where they're from." Among Sonic360's other recent signings is Argentina's Acida.
The pairing has proved prescient, with Kinky, formed in 1998, rising at a faster rate than any Mexican rock band ever. The LAMC victory and the record deal set the stage for a busy 2001, which included a show-stopping appearance at Colombia's Rock al Parque, Latin America's biggest rock festival.
"We went [to Bogotá] for a show and had to stay over for an extra week, playing in front of more than 25,000 people," Lozano says. But surprise success came on a different trip, a mini-tour of Europe that included stops in France, England and Wales. Kinky's gig at Reims, France's Transmusical Festival earned the band invites to several European summer festivals. And nowhere was the response better than, of all places, Wales.
"Wherever we play, the response is similar," says Lozano, the band's unofficial leader. "We start playing, and people start dancing and getting involved. But we were a little surprised with the Welsh's euphoria, because they were the ones who knew the least about the band."
The same can't be said of the jaded crowd at Austin's South by Southwest, where Kinky was bathed in buzz after a successful showcase alongside fellow Mexican stars such as Joselo Rangel of Café Tacuba, Ely Guerra and Genitallica, as well as Chile's Chancho en Piedra, France's Pánico and 2001 Latin Grammy winners Sindicato Argentino del Hip Hop. Now, with a spot on the exciting Unlimited Sunshine tour, the brainchild of Cake's John McCrea, the band looks ready to blow up. Meanwhile, their connection to their colorful -- and noisy -- hometown has never been sweeter.
"I think one of the reasons [Monterrey's rock movement] is going on is because people from Monterrey are very supportive," says Lozano, dispatching the regiomontano stereotype of cheapness. "People support music with the same enthusiasm they support art and soccer. That makes it easier for us to survive."