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Social Status : Argentina's Enanitos Verdes Have Left Adolescence Behind, Focusing on Economic and Political Woes

August 24, 1996|ENRIQUE LAVIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Only a few years ago, Argentine rock band Enanitos Verdes sang mostly about the problems of growing up, which the band packed into catchy dance-rock songs that appealed mostly to teens.

But with age frequently comes a new outlook, and this trio's has shifted from the personal to the social and political.

"While our first albums, like 'Contrareloj' [Against the Clock], dealt with adolescence and coming of age, the last two records have a more global meaning, tackling a reality that we can't ignore anymore," singer and bassist Marciano Cantero said by phone recently from a Los Angeles hotel.

Confronting the harsh political and economic problems facing Latin America is a trend among many Latin rockeros, especially those whose tours allow them to compare social conditions in a variety of locations to those at home.

Enanitos Verdes--the name translates as "little green men"-- take a stance that's less relentless and in-your-face as Latin punk bands, such as their countrymen in Todos Tus Muertos (All Your Dead) or Mexico's Tijuana No, both of which played Orange County recently.

What the Mendoza-based band does offer is a style of straightforward, often sensitive but mostly biting rock tunes with lyrics that cry for social justice for the dispossessed of the world.

Band members say that the songs on their latest album, "Guerra Gaucha" (Gaucho War), grew out of worsening conditions for the common person, who works "like a slave and lives like a dog." That point is made in the galloping, strum-filled song "Dale Pascual" (Go on, Pascual), the album's first single.

Cantero, guitarist Felipe Staiti and drummer Daniel Piccolo, who have been together for a decade, play Sunday at J.C. Fandango's in Anaheim as part of a brief U.S. tour to support "Guerra Gaucha," the group's seventh album.

It was released in July, the group's second North American CD under EMI Latin. The first, 1994's "Big Bang," sold 50,000 copies in the U.S., largely on the strength of its hit single "Lamento Boliviano" (Simon Bolivar's Lament)--a commentary on the disunity among Latin American governments.

*

In general, "Big Bang" only hinted at the band's social discontent. "Guerra Gaucha," with its folksy rock flavor, evokes the spirit of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero." Musically, it incorporates plenty of Spanish guitar, world-beat percussion and bandoneon, the signature tango instrument and a cousin of the accordion.

"Heroes al fin" (Heroes at Last), a near-acoustic ballad, deals with disillusion and political resignation from the point of view of a woman speaking from her home.

The band takes a grunge-like approach with a sarcastic assault on government in "Caretas sin alma" (Soulless Gas Mask), which includes a chilling chorus: "Country is not land, it's liberty."

The title track may contain the group's most powerful lyrics: "Kill the king, burn his clothes . . . the nucleus of the country is going to explode . . . guerra gaucha, corrupcion."

Such songs, Cantero said, reflect "a concrete reality that speaks of the restlessness of the working class that doesn't have too many options. They are the unsung heroes that we sing about."

* Enanitos Verdes play Sunday at J.C. Fandango's, 1086 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim. 8 p.m. $15. (714) 758-1057.

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