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Pop Music Review

Rock en Espan~ol Bands Can't Match Magazine They Honor

November 03, 1998|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You would expect a concert celebrating the sixth anniversary of a magazine devoted to rock en espan~ol to capture the spirit of the publication itself. But the four-hour birthday marathon Sunday at the Universal Amphitheatre didn't approach the standards of La Banda Elastica, the rock en espan~ol bible it meant to honor.

There were no big surprises nor seductive detours, two qualities that have become the magazine's trademark.

The show's biggest disappointment was the L.A. debut of Argentine rappers Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas. The group's concept is rather ironic: a bunch of middle-class white kids rapping with the braggadocio of somebody who grew up in the ghetto.

There's some sonic power in the undeniably rich "Demolicion" and the disco pastiche "Jaguar House," but there was also the persistent feeling that you were seeing a prefabricated act--as if Halloween stores in Buenos Aires had a surplus of Run-DMC costumes.

Headliner La Ley was the obligatory commercial presence. The Chilean quartet has a handsome lead singer and a drummer who puts on a show all by himself. The group performed its battery of moody hits, drenched in spiraling guitars and a big light show, sending its fans into a state of hysteria.

The concert also featured two unscheduled appearances.

Argentina's Ataque77 is a veteran band whose commanding musicianship made up for the sameness of its material. And King Chango, a multicultural ska collective from New York, showcased songs from its second album, which is being recorded in Los Angeles. In the new material, the ska references seem to be giving way to a more heartfelt hybrid of pop and tropical influences.

The Mexican duo Plastilina Mosh, augmented by a deejay, a bassist and a percussionist, opened the evening with 20 minutes of its frisky sonic collage of rap, noisy lounge and electronica. Also on the bill was Los Angeles quartet Pastilla, which is steadily showing that there's some real talent beneath the heavy British rock influences. Its early hit "Amor Metal" never sounded better.

Nothing inspired, maybe, but all the participants offered respectable sets in a wide variety of styles, demonstrating that rock en espan~ol has gone beyond the amateurish level of only a few years ago.

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