Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Agua Maldita

Molotov's Agua Maldita

Release Date: June 10, 2014
Label: Universal Music Mexico
Genre: Alternative Hip-Hop, Latin Rap Rock

     Chances are, the average music enthusiast reading this review has no idea who Molotov are, and it wouldn't surprise me if that were the case. However, what may surprise that reader is the fact that Molotov are a 4-time Grammy Award winning band that has been active for almost two decades now. So these guys aren't just another latin rock/hip-hop band, on the contrary, they are incredibly influential and remain popular to this day in the Spanish speaking world, particularly in their home country of Mexico.  However, since Molotov only mix some English verses in their songs, they don't tend to get much airtime outside of Latin America and, if you haven't figured this out yet, those Grammys I mentioned earlier where in fact Latin Grammys.

     How do I know about Molotov then? I honestly have no idea anymore. I know it has something to do with "No Manches Mi Vida", a song off their third album, Apocalypshit, which remains my favorite song by the band.  That song got me hooked with the sick bass line that sets up the song and the aggressive Spanish rapping that, even though I have no idea what they are saying, makes me want to go out and beat some heads in as if it were a Hatebreed song.  After that though, I didn't look much into the band, besides their two actual hits, "Frijolero" and "Gimme Tha Power", which, although good, were almost the exact opposite of what I was expecting after hearing "No Maches Mi Vida".  From my limited knowledge of Molotov, I have gathered that you can never expect how a song will go, just to be ready for anything.

     Apparently many of the songs are supposed to be politically or socially-driven tracks, but I cannot really tell as I cannot speak Spanish well and I do not entirely trust Google Translate to translate the lyrics of the song and retain the meaning of the lyrics. So this review will be centralized on the actual sounds that I hear upon listening to Agua Maldita, their seventh album to date, but if I feel it is necessary, I will speak about the lyrics. I do listen to a lot of folk metal that tends to stay in the vernacular of each band's particular area, so I am very used to listening to foreign-language music simply for the sound and the feeling, so I shouldn't be too biased for that. One last disclaimer: I tend to also talk about each person's merit on each instrument, but apparently the band members switch between instruments depending on the song, so I really have no idea who did what on each song, so i'll shy away from attributing each instrument to a particular member. Anyway, seven years after Molotov's last album, they released Agua Maldita. Let's hear how it holds up.


    I prefer to start with the positive, so above is my absolute favorite track on the album, "Gonner." It perfectly exemplifies what I said earlier of not knowing what to expect.  For a little bit, this song just sounds like a standard upbeat rock song, then the lyrics start and it feels a little faster than you'd initially expect. After a little bit of time, the vocals start to fit more and more and with the bass, it sounds a lot like a song on a Presidents of the United States of America album. Remember them? Solid band, many more notable tracks than just "Lump". Anyway, another verse starts that is much lower on the vocal register and is probably the closest to a chorus you'll get in this song, but the kicker is what comes right after that, around 0:45 in the song. A guitar lick that sounds like it came straight out of a Dick Dale or Beach Boys or some other old surfer track. Something like that throws me through a loop but it just adds to the appeal of this eclectic song that just goes against convention for what a standard piece of music should be. I get delighted every time I listen to it. And you know what else? they even threw some cowbell into the song, which filled the gap in my life that can only be filled by more cowbell.  No real instrument stands out for me in terms of complexity or skill needed to replicate, but that doesn't matter when all the elements in the song come together so well.  Its a very nice track.

     Other than "Gonner", other tracks of note include the opening song, "Oleré Y Oleré Y Oleré El UHU" and "La Necesidad".  "Oleré Y Oleré Y Oleré El UHU" is kind of a funny song to listen to, in my mind anyway, which makes sense because the band themselves are pretty lighthearted in nature, mixing the complexities of political and economical disputes with a bit of comedic flair. Granted, my three semesters of College Spanish means I know absolutely nothing about the translation, but they can show that lightheartedness with the sound as well. I mean, in this particular song, they repeat "UHU" over and over again to the point that they sound like gorillas, which I am quite sure was the intention.  I think I also like that song a lot because of the heavy use of guitar that reminds me of "No Manches Mi Vida", so it is a lot more hard rock...ish. "La Necesidad" on the other hand, sounds initially like a track coming from Snow Patrol's Final Straw album, then again it switches once the vocals begin, just like in "Gonner". Its a nice catchy song with the only chorus I actually try to sing along, albeit very poorly due to my lack of familiarity with the language.  Its a smooth track with great tempo and a fine guitar hook on top of more latin-sounding instruments. And some cowbell. You could always go for more cowbell.

"La Necesidad"

     Two other songs worth mentioning are "La Raza Pura es la Pura Raza" and "Fuga", which are the second and third track, respectively. "La Raza Pura es la Pura Raza" is easily notable for being one of the two tracks on the album featuring D.M.C., one third of the legendary hip-hop group Run-D.M.C..  Its another catchy song on the album with more variety on the instruments, including a lot of brass and guitars only really prevalent on the chorus itself.  You can really feel D.M.C.'s influence on the song's overall sound besides him vocal contribution and ovall, "La Raza Pura es la Pura Raza" is probably the song I have listened to the most on the album. "Fuga" comes right after it and is a lot faster with very good drum work leading the instruments and keeping up with the speed of the rapping. In fact, i'd say the drumming is the most consistently good element on the album, and that is coming from a guy who focuses on guitar and bass, then vocals, and lastly the drums. About half-way through the song, the song slows down for a bit and Molotov channel Red Hot Chili Peppers, and that's not just because of the repeated line "Gotta Get Away", which sounds suspiciously like "Give it Away".  These two songs as well as the two prior are the first four songs on the album, with "Gonner" being the only one not in the first half.  Which may be the reason I like "Gonner" so much: it is the only one after "La Necessidad" that I actually really enjoyed.

     The other five songs on the album are what tear it down for me. I was actually looking forward to this release when I heard that Molotov was recording again, which was announced about four years ago. In the meantime, we got a live album, but not a full studio release for seven years, so I had high expectations for this album, and I was a bit let down. "No Existe" and "Llorari", the fifth and sixth song respectively, are just plain dull, I almost fell asleep listening to them. They just seemed too repetitive and standard for a band that does well at stretching the limits of what music could sound like. They aren't bad to the point that if it came on the radio i'd switch the station, but its nothing I would actively seek out, and "Lagunas Metales" and "Quién Se Enoja Pierde", the last two songs on the album, are much the same, though the former is a tad better, if only because of the chorus.

     The song I just didn't like at all was "Again N' Again" which has no real redeemable factors about it, which is sad because it is the other song featuring D.M.C.. You would barely notice he is on the track though, as, unlike ""La Raza Pura es la Pura Raza", you cannot tell he had any influence on the sound of the track. Also, concerning his part in the song, which is in English, the writing is very weak. All he speaks about is just how the news lies, and your standard fare about how the government keeps the truth from everyone. Its the same conspiracy stuff you hear from any politically-motivated band you could ever think of and feels really stale at this point. Also, the song itself is very dull, with a really repetitive chorus constantly saying "Again n' again" over and over and over again. Oh, that's another line they say over and over, "Over and over again".  There's nothing interesting you could pay attention to if you were to even ignore the lyrics, just the same refrain repeated more than an Atari tune loop. Ignore that song completely, trust me.

"La Raza Pura es la Pura Raza"

     Overall, Agua Maldita is alright. It delivers five solid songs that are worth listening to that just barely outweigh the other five songs on the album that are to be avoided. I do not feel bad though evaluating this album almost entirely on the sound and not the lyrical content, for if it is intended to get any audience in the English speaking world, or any other country where Spanish is not the primary language, then that is what the audience there will care about.  If I spoke Spanish though, I would talk about the lyrical content, but it is not a primary concern for the people I am advertising this album to, those with no or limited Spanish speaking experience. I will give this album an overall score of 6.8: I was disappointed with the album than many were waiting at least four years for but with the few gems it does produce, i'm glad it was finally released. Check it out if any of what I spoke of interests you, and if you do happen to speak Spanish, by all means look deeper into the album, listen/read the lyrics, maybe you will find something more than what I did.

Click here for Molotov's official website
Click here for Molotov's Official Facebook page.
Click here to download the album from iTunes
Click here to download the album from Amazon


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