by Jon Sarre
American music is outsider music. This is something my unfocused study of the stuff has lead me to fervently believe, no matter how much white-bread bullshit is foisted on the public (do I have to name names?) or how many millionaire rock stars go native so they can rip off Third World havenots when all the coke up their noses destroys whatever creativity they may’ve had at one time (anyone catch the latter part of Paul Simon’s career?). The real blood’n’guts and heart’n’balls of our musical culture has always been the result of the rage, frustration, and blues of pissed-off sharecroppers, depressed squirrel-huntin’ hill people, Jesus-damaged loonies, unemployable street kids lookin’ for a good time and wasted draft-bait suburban brats. That’s our history right there, the Chesses, Spectors, and Geffens just market it, kids.
Fernando Viciconte is such an outsider. He’s originally from Argentina, but he’s possessed by the spirit of Hank Williams (and maybe Elvis, too, cuz he likes to eat cheeseburgers and bacon). His new record is called Pacoima (he recorded it with the substantial input of the multi-instrumentally talented Luther Russell) and you oughtta take note of it, cuz his mix of rock’n’soul and country blues en Espanol is gonna reverberate from barrio neighborhoods to neatly-trimmed suburban lawns nationwide (if Providence – not the city in Rhode Island – intervenes).
“I’m a stranger in this town/Hidden in the shadows/Like a cat who wants to fight” Viciconte sings (the lyrics’ English translations are provided) on “Alemeda.” Then he punctuates the verse with a tortured yowl. There’s a lot of that on this record. Fernando’s voice has a really expressive quality that adds immediate color and sound to his narratives, whether he’s wishin’ death upon himself for his liquor-saturated night crawls (“El Curda De Buenos Aires”), or relatin’ a story about cops fuckin’ with his brother (“Chanchos Sucios”). These songs are classic examples of hard-won Americana: pride and loathing at belonging and separation rolled into one quivering mass.
Pacoima’s an unvarnished (but unxeroxed) trip past Chuck Berry’s riffage, weepy Spanish balladry, slow knock-out R&B, steel guitar, ? and the Mysterians’ own particular two-and-a-half minute odes to teenage lust, War-type funk and Richie Valens (whose Live At Pacoima Jr. High has been credited by some sources as rock’n’roll’s first live album and whose throbbing rockabilly “Ooh, My Head” is this album’s sole English language track). Most important, it’s Fernando, and he himself is the shabby but authentic tacqueria in this Taco Bell world.
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