Caballeros del Albedrio,
Terrícolas Imbéciles, México
by Carlos Reyes
Austin TV drops the bunny and pine cone costumes for something darker, a fashion move already approved by its many urban tribes. Mexico City’s five-piece, all-instrumental band, Austin TV, speaks to a seemingly isolated, uncouth youth on their third full-length double album, Caballeros del Albedrio. It’s been 10 years since the band’s highly doubted formation, but today they stand as one of Latin America’s most celebrated rock acts. They wear masks to redirect their audience to their own inner beauty and abstain themselves from lyrical narrative for open interpretation. Austin TV is not the most original band in the world, but since its beginnings it has been a band of cognitive upstream ideas.
Aside from the dialogue excerpts from Zemeckis’ Back to the Future Part II and Taboada’s Veneno Para las Hadas, I didn’t much care for the band’s 2003 debut, La Ultima Noche del Mundo. At best, it was an esoteric collection of mid-tempo songs that, although explicitly illustrated, were as premature in their configuration as most of the transitional albums by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Four years later, Austin TV knocked my socks off with the radiantly conceptualized Fontana Bella, a whimsical diary about Mario Lupo, a demented woodsman/scientist who dealt with fairies and ghosts on his own morbid terms. The music was exciting, and the overall experience was as absorbing as World of Warcraft’s The Green Hills of Stranglethorn.
On their latest album, Austin TV abandons much of the imaginative stimulants that made them renowned craftsmen and instead add strength and artillery to their templates. Timing at just two minutes long, first single “El Hombre Pánico” bursts airwaves with steady drums and aggressive call-and-response dynamics. Austin TV is recognizable, but a new form of composition is noticeable. The five band members apparently barricaded themselves in a house and, after watching films by Jorodowsky, Buñuel, and Arau, they assigned numerical value to what they had seen and adapted the emotional imagery into highly-sequenced songs. While this form of composition might have worked with its linear pieces (“Cuando Cerraste Los Ojos” and “Dok Laurent Esta Muerto”), the procedure is impractical in its ornamented pieces (“Despierta Wendy” and “This is Maya”).
The record is produced by Emmanuel del Real and is divided in two complementary eight-track sides titled Han and Seeb. The premise in Caballeros del Albedrio is to present a math rock album correlating rhythm and speed. Now, I might know as much algebra as Beyonce in “1+1,” but I know this album is not as much about its numerical assessment as it is about its physicality. Austin TV confuses galloping passages with excel spreadsheets and turns patterns into equations without much emotional tissue or depth (especially difficult for someone who just referenced Beyonce in the last sentence). Where the band does prevail is in its gestures to recognize its ideal audience: A-list teenagers and adults with patience. This is, of course, a review confined by digital distribution. Austin TV’s albums are more of an experience with multi-dimensional packaging, instruction cards, and other goodies. Good news, though, the band has announced the release of an application to guide you on this adventure. Sure enough, this is an album with a potential for critical reconsideration.