Stricken with a rare case of getting to the point, NorteñoBlog directs you cuanto antes to the latest single by El Armenta, aka singer/songwriter/businessman/director Raymundo Armenta from the state of Guerrero. The zero-budget video for “El Perro Se Soltó” (Armenta), presented by Raysunshine Films, does not quite achieve the demented heights of Ed Wood’s Cocaine-Fueled Fever Dream, but it comes close. It cuts repeatedly between two different scenes. In the normcore narrative half, El Armenta stops by the home of his novia, who’s been preparing for his visit by doing the dishes, putting on makeup, and ignoring calls from an unknown number. Armenta brings her a stuffed perro and unsuccessfully tries to throw grapes into her mouth. He abruptly disappears from this narrative, sending novia to the recliner for a nap. She wakes to the sound of a barking perro on the radio, checks her phone, and leaves. This plot summary should be taken as a NorteñoBlog cry for help.
In the second scene, El Armenta dances in a park amid a circle of people wearing sombreros and grotesque rubber masks. They hold sticks the size of baseball bats tied to coils of rope. Although they are frankly frightening, nobody gets hit with a stick. I’m not sure how these scenes relate to one another or to el perro de la novia del Armento; no doubt I’m missing a proud cultural tradition and/or a lyrical plot point. So be a dear and watch this thing, will you? To sweeten the deal, I’ll tell you that of all the big dumb banda cumbias I’ve heard this year, “El Perro” is the best, with horns and clarinets blaring all over the place and a churning beat that doesn’t quit until the dog barks at the end. The sound’s a little clipped in the video, which only adds to the Lynchian daytime nightmare feel of the whole endeavor. An obvious Pick to Click.
Almost as good is 17-year-old Alex Saucedo, whose “Si Te Voy a Perder” (indie) depicts a smug bastard trapped inside a hellscape of ornate material wealth and hot babes. The consumption: it is conspicuous. How conspicuous? When Saucedo takes his novia to the mall so he can check out other women with some blatantness, his name is on the wall of the mall. You almost have to admire the guy for being so balls-out in his jerkdom. Imagine Martin Shkreli made a music video. Now imagine it didn’t suck, that it was instead a fierce waltz mashing up norteño quartet with banda, and that the singer’s lustrous voice made you overlook his perpetual smirk. I mean, we’ve already suspended enough disbelief with the mere existence of El Armento’s video, so this shouldn’t be too hard. VALE LA PENA
Speaking of mashups, the quintet Colmillo Norteño has joined forces with the quintet Uniko Mando to create “El Rápido” (Go), a blistering corrido where everyone gets to play. That’s right: two drum kits, two tubas, a standup bassist who doesn’t have much to do so he spends most of the song riding his instrument — literally riding it, like a stick horse — or spinning it around. You get the idea. The sordid tale of a delicate cartel operation is secondary to the gallop of the storytellers.
NorteñoBlog atones for that last song by ending with “Voz de Esperanza – Papa Francisco” (indie), a sweet December release from the sax septet Séptima. It’s received a push at Mexican radio ahead of Papa Francisco’s visit to Mexico this week. (“I think that the Pope is a very political person,” says noted apolitical peace beacon Donald Trump.) Amid all the press he gets, I missed this Papal pronouncement in 2014:
Francis went to the mafia’s heartland in southern Italy and told mobsters that, because of their “evil ways,” they are “excommunicated from the church.” It was the first time a pope has booted the mafia from the flock, and established Francis as a man unafraid of calling out crime bosses.
Many Catholics expect the Pope to deliver a similar message next week in Mexico, particularly in Morelia in Michoacan, a state ravaged by cartels that often adopt the trappings of religion to sanctify their violence. The main Michoacan cartel, for instance, calls itself the Knights Templar, copying the name of a Catholic order of medieval Crusaders.
Good for Papa! Of course, this has as much chance of stopping the cartels as my book club has of getting Donald Trump to read Octavio Paz, but that’s not really the point. A man who can unite Trump and the Michoacan Cartel against him, and thus highlight their philosophical similarities, is doing something right.