Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

El Komander – El Mexico Americano

Next up, a Mexican-American artist last seen in 2015


Josh Langhoff: Whether because 40 is gliding toward me like a drop-top Brougham or simply because my taste has improved, I’ve lately been listening to a lot of urban AC radio. This means twice in a week my son and I got to hear Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day,” which I’m glad to report is still great — even greater than it used to be — and undiminished in its ability to speak horror and pleasure in the same words, to sound utterly chill about a life that’s utterly precarious. I don’t think my boy picked up on any of that, and why should he, wrapped in his fifth grade cocoon of Cub Scouts and Pokemon? We’ve had the post-Trump talks with him: We’ll probably be OK, but some of your friends might not, and you need to look out for them and help them, even as our voices fade into helplessness. And then here comes Alfredo Ríos: like Ice Cube a lover of women and mind-altering substances, packing a cuerno, acutely aware of every authoritarian eyeball tracking his whereabouts. Like Ice Cube he does himself no political favors with this song, bragging about his shipments from Bogotá. But “El Mexico Americano” has stormed U.S. Regional Mexican radio, a good chunk of whose audience feels as precarious as young black men in South Central. The Komander band’s tuba/accordion blats and howling high harmonies deliver a “fuck you” every bit as exuberant as “Good Day,” or “Move That Dope,” or Jay-Z mewling the cop’s eternal line, “Are you carrying a weapon on you, I know a lot of you are?” 

Brad Shoup: So many thrilling moments when all the percussion hits: the kit, thumbs on strings, the clacking of accordion buttons. From these thunderstorms emerges El Komander, a little rough in the cords but otherwise unscathed. He sways from America to Colombia, rocking on some no doubt highly tailored heels.

Alfred Soto: The star is the strumming beneath the horn chart and the accordion; the charm is in El Komander chilling in the backyard, cold beer in hand, with cousins and friends. Call it the norteño version of a Brad Paisley or good Jason Aldean number.

Iain Mew: I bet this would totally slay on Accordion Hero.

Jonathan Bogart: The accordion skitters and wheels with Hendrixian, nay with Hazelian virtuosity, but it’s the rock-solid rhythm section that allows it to take its flights. And the excuse for the flights in the first place, the singer and his song? It’s a telegraphic hard-as-nails first-person portrait of a border-crosser who misses his Sinaloa home but won’t let sentiment get in the way of Colombian business. (I’ve been reading Robert Browning lately, and the same kind of communication by inference and significant silences is at work here.) El Komander’s performance is as dry and without flourishes as the border desert. The often-made comparison between corridos alterados and gangsta rap should have as much to do with the striking contrast between the joyously virtuosic DJs/bandas and the pared-down, emotionally uninflected MCs/corrideros as it does the subject matter.

Ramzi Awn: For all the fascinating frills the instrumentation takes on, the songwriting is stress-free. The single pulses with joy, the levels are on point, and the vocals are mixed expertly.  

Anthony Easton: I don’t speak Spanish so the narrative is a little cryptic, though it seems to be mostly about guns and girls, but this matters less than the rollicking brass and keys. It’s of a form, but a very good example of it.

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