Mexico's Kinky catches fire The band lives and dies by the groove.

Posted: March 13, 2009

Kinky, a five-piece electronic rock band from Monterrey, Mexico, doesn't have many English-language songs in its repertoire, but the band played just about all of them at World Cafe Live on Wednesday, front-loading their set for the Anglo crowd. They needn't have bothered. You don't need to speak two languages, or even one, for their mixture of dance-floor grooves, synthesized squelch and rock punch to make itself understood.

In fact, the band's attempts at crossovers are often its least inspired music. The show started strong, with "Massacre Snica," whose title was effectively translated by its thumping beat and urgent riffs. But even without the lackluster rap that mars the version on their latest album, Barracuda, "Those Girls" felt like a crude pastiche of early-'90s leftovers. And a shouted, almost tuneless version of Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" missed its shot at upending the song's caricatures, although it did coax a few listeners out of their seats.

But after a slow beginning, Kinky caught fire, living up to the title of "Hasta Quemarnos" ("Until We Burn"). Singer Gilberto Cerezo ranged from an airy falsetto to a rhythmic chant, pitching in with guitar, trumpet, and some simulated hip-hop scratching, while Ulises Lozano, in a choppy New Wave haircut and oversized glasses, switched from keyboard banks to button accordion, adding a dusting of traditional Mexican sound to the band's eclectic brew.

Although Kinky's sound varies almost to a fault, making the group's records choppy and uneven affairs, they live and die by the groove. Their 2002 hit, the much-licensed "Ms," is essentially one big riff, a four-note bass line repeated to transporting effect.

Although logistics prevented his stepping to the fore, the real star of the show was drummer Omar Gongora, whose playing mixed the swing and shimmy of Latin rhythms with the propulsion of rock drumming. Unlike the band's other members, he couldn't roam the stage, but a lipstick camera taped to a microphone stand brought the audience to him, projecting his image on a screen at the rear of the stage. The effect was no doubt designed for the festival crowds Kinky plays to in the Spanish-speaking world, but it was welcome in this smaller room, allowing the audience to get closer without getting singed.

|
|
|
|
|