Joven Edad, Carmen Sandiego
Rating: 80 ★★★★
by Blanca Méndez
by Blanca Méndez
If you were a trendy kid circa 1996, you probably owned a digital pet of some sort. In the great Giga Pet vs. Tamagotchi debate, I was Team Tamagotchi all the way. Give me a weird blob of a creature over a digi dog any day. And, yes, I actually owned one that I may or may not have named Fiona because I was really obsessed with Tidal. But let’s not delve too deep into my childhood. What’s great about the song “Tamagotchi” on Carmen Sandiego’s Joven Edad is that, as the chorus tells us, the Tamagotchi (or family of Tamagotchis) is a better therapist than an actual therapist. Living a separate life with this “familia japonesa, aunque los fabrique un niño taiwanés,” solves all problems, apparently. This virtual pet as therapist model works because it provides a sense of control. You alone are in control of the virtual world of this pet and can alter it by feeding it on schedule, playing games with it, and disciplining when necessary. But as a long-term solution, it is problematic. After all, a Tamagotchi’s lifespan isn’t that long and, once it’s gone, you still have reality to deal with – realities like love, heartbreak, and fear, all of which Carmen Sandiego tackles cleverly on this album.
“Lunes” is the album’s most tender moment because it conveys that “Sunday Kind of Love” (or Monday kind of love in this case) feeling with almost too cute lyrics and Monday morning sound effects, complete with creaking doors and a whistling teapot. This feeling doesn’t last forever, though, and the band gets to that later in the album. If you don’t listen to the lyrics on “Superado,” you could mistake it for a lullaby with its sweet xylophone and lulling guitar. If you do listen to the lyrics, it’s actually a passive (okay, maybe not so passive) aggressive, relationship gone sour lullaby and the most relatable song on the album because who hasn’t been at the “te odio tanto que a veces me duele y no, no quiero ser tu amigo,” but I’m not resentful point?
More explicit with its intentions is “Asco Al Sexo,” a strange and spooky tune about sex as something equally fascinating and repulsive. If you think about how much of the album is about sex in some way and about how it was somewhat inspired by the band’s horror upon first hearing Calle 13’s “Se Vale To-To” and watching the video for it, then this song is the pinnacle of the album. You, too, might have felt an “asco al sexo” after first hearing the line “aunque seamos primos, yo te exprimo.”
Before I listened to a single note of Joven Edad, I could tell I was into it. Any album that includes tracks with names like “Asco Al Sexo,” “Pintame de Gatito,” and “Tamagotchi” has to be good, or at least entertaining. But it actually took a few listens for me to really get into it. The album is the kind that you need to spend time with to catch all of its subtleties and quirks. And, once you do, you’ll appreciate Carmen Sandiego’s expert delivery. Named after everyone’s favorite elusive educational criminal mastermind, the Uruguay-based band makes self-aware, tongue-in-cheek music with a fantastic dry humor a la Leslie Nielsen (RIP) in The Naked Gun series. Think a monotone voice singing very matter-of-fact songs about kisses that taste like cheese and induce vomit (there's actually one on this album) and you’ll get the gist.
Musically, Joven Edad, is, for the most part, pretty simple and straightforward rock and roll. But in terms of tone and content matter, the band displays a great range that takes us from flippant, IDGAF to dark and bizarre to soft and sweet, then bitter without being too jarring. Though I love Joven Edad’s comedic moments, it isn’t a comedy album. There’s much more to it than that. But like any great comedic routine, it’s all about the timing and delivery, and Carmen Sandiego’s got that down to an art.