Music News

Voodoo Glow Skulls

Like a Mexican wrestler bouncing Ricky Martin's overexposed face off the pop-cultural turnbuckle, this siren (and sometimes ambulatory) call of Latin speed metal is one bruisin' dose, hombre, a full throttle mosh-fiesta of punk, funk, ska, hardcore and plenty of good Chicano snarl. Sung entirely in Spanish, Éxitos is a collection of previously unreleased material on the Latin alternative label Grita! (Scream!) It's a terrifically welcome sound, indeed -- often as mirthful as it is aggressive.

Since the band's late-Eighties inception in Riverside, California, Frank, Eddie and Jorge Casillas have been driving tight, noisy, pit-slamming sentiments headlong into some kind of strange, brass-accompanied, hyperventilating beast. Like the red-hot 1992 debut album Who Is, This Is (which sold 200,000 copies for Dr. Strange Records) and the Epitaph released Firme, Éxitos finds the brothers Casillas in typically furious form. They rant. They jeer. They have a knack for blurring time -- or, on occasion, making you feel like you see through it. The album is a buzzing hive of trumpet, sax and trombone that sputters against voracious tempos, creating some of the fastest and toughest poliritmos in the three Americas. It's speed ranchero set against a melting Aztec sundial, Big Daddy Roth at a Day of the Dead festival. Exciting, dense tracks howl against a broad scope of comic maladies and unbearable living conditions: empty bottles, the tienda segunda mano (secondhand store) and an ever-constricting migra (border patrol). Gringos will no doubt recognize every syllable of "Feliz Navidad," though the Skulls' version comes off like a blindsided piñata, sarcastic enough to mortify José Feliciano. This group is sexy without the satellite-beamed Menudoisms.

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John La Briola