music, charts, opinions


Los Pakines

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (aka The “Downtown” of Pan-Latino Videos)

julion and juan

At NorteñoBlog we’re accustomed to seeing our fair share of videos that are, to put it politely, extraordinary. (To put it impolitely: batshit insane.) Usually these videos result from the collision of wild creativity with meager indie label video budgets: Who can forget Los Pakines de Perú’s heavily narcotized Ed Wood fever dream for “Vacia,” which featured ghostly visions of a dude in a goblin mask playing the trumpet, as well as some ex-lovebirds smearing one another with frosting? That was not a rhetorical question. PLEASE TELL ME WHO CAN FORGET THAT VIDEO, so I can consult them before I wake up screaming again tonight.

Today’s extraordinary video is something different. For one thing, it wasn’t cheap. The song that sits at #12 on this week’s Mexican radio chart features not one but three big stars, a cast of dozens (at least), a norteño band and an R&B band, and serious Fonovisa/Universal money behind it. True, not much happens in the video — it’s a performance re-enactment, not one of those Trakalosa epics where the hero spends years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit until one day the stars cross and he shivs the real villain with a crucifix in the cafeteria. (I only made up the shiv.) But at the same time, you can tell it took some doing. The abundant video cutting suggests either a multitude of takes or an editor who was way overthinking the job; and Los Pakines could finance another video with Juan Gabriel’s eyeliner budget alone.

That’s right, it’s the new song by Juan Gabriel, a remake of his 1980 12-bar blues “La Frontera,” Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (aka The “Downtown” of Pan-Latino Videos)”

Los Pakines de Perú Lose Your Mind

los pakines

This week’s videos presented NorteñoBlog with a tough choice: Trakalosa’s big-budget mini-novela about the perils of the accidental cocaine trade, or something that looks like Ed Wood’s cocaine-fueled fever dream? NorteñoBlog being a blog of largely puerile interests, you know which one I chose.

Los Pakines de Perú started in the ’70s as a groovy cumbia band, and have since added vocals and smoothed out their sound. Their latest video “Vacia” opens with a guy — we’ll call him Young Man of Perpetual Scowl (Scowl for short) — breaking up with a girl. Scowl tries to climb on top of her car as she drives away. This bold act fails to win her back, so he returns to his apartment, where visions of the young lady’s ghost keep penetrating his furrowed brow. As we’ve seen with other bands of a certain age, notably Los Cardenales, nobody wants to see old dudes learning the ways of love, so the video cuts back and forth between young Scowl’s torment and the seasoned band’s cheerful performance of a tropical cumbia, resplendent with coordinated supper club dance moves. In the next scene Scowl sits at his table smoking a cigarette and talking to a cheap stuffed bear who wears a “love” t-shirt. The nightmare begins: A doctor delivers a cruel diagnosis of “thumbs down.” A Rasta smokes a blunt. An exorcist violently expels some guy wearing a devil horns and a green goblin mask and playing a trumpet. Cut to the delirious band swaying away. Now we’re thrust into Scowl’s kitchen for the most garish sight of all: he and the ghost of ex-girlfriend have a cutesy encounter with frosting. I would rather have the devil inside me than frosting smeared on my face. I’m sure this betrays the privilege of the never-possessed, but there we are. Los Pakines’ founding guitarist takes a solo; the ghost couple takes selfies out on the lawn. We leave Scowl to scowl alone in the grass while the band smiles for the camera, refreshed by musical camaraderie. As J. Hoberman has written, “The objectively bad film attempts to reproduce the institutional mode of representation, but its failure to do so deforms the simplest formulae and clichés so absolutely that you barely recognize them.” As J. Hoberman has not written, VALE LA PENA. Literally.

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