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POP MUSIC REVIEW

La Castaneda Packages Provocative Images, Music

February 12, 1996|ENRIQUE LOPETEGUI

A flier for the Mexican rock group La Castaneda once described the band as coming "from the most polluted city of the world," and was illustrated with images of a dark, decadent Third World civilization.

The group's performance Friday at the Variety Arts Center brought that image to life with a remarkably provocative mix of modern dance, ghostly figures walking down the aisles, full female nudity, giant mosquitoes and spider webs . . . and a solid, if underrated six-piece band on stage.

Named after a Mexico City mental hospital opened at the turn of the century, La Castaneda is perhaps the most experimental band from the pack of young Mexican rockers. While the group has performed here before, this was the first time it brought its entire show.

The previous visits were interesting, but this production better showcased the group's main strength. More than individual songs, La Castaneda's most powerful feature is its ability in concert to create disturbingly haunting atmospheres that reflect youthful disillusionment with what the band members suggest is a continuing decay of values.

But the images aren't just for shock value. They are thoughtful, if sometimes extreme reflections offered by an ensemble of capable young musicians and poets, whose inability to match on record the power of their live shows seems to be the only obstacle between them and a larger popularity.

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