Flores Como Gatos, Colombina Parra
by Carlos Reyes
Chilean rock band Los Ex is mostly known for two things: their 1996 hit “La Corbata de Mi Tio” and for being the kind of martinet band that only releases about two albums per decade. Sometime during those long breaks, lead vocalist Colombina Parra composed an eight-track collection of heart-consuming songs where she is truly unrecognizable. On her solo debut album, Flores Como Gatos, Parra drops the grunge-punk attitude completely and encounters the crystalline side of melody in clocking acoustic chords.
Unlike most of the rock desperados that can easily drag their former band’s audience into their solo projects, Parra’s substantial shift from hasty rock diva to wandering folksinger makes it difficult for her to establish her credentials. Flores Como Gatos is an album of palpable skill, but with all the humility, aspirations, and occasional flaws of a newcomer. The album opens with the puzzling title track, where Parra sings about a garden of flowers that look like cats and threatens to cut herself into pieces among a multitude. Needless to say, this is not your typical folk album. In fact, this record transports me back into the one time in my childhood when I was allowed to go trick-or-treating - a night of sugar-craving, jack-o’-lanterns, broken innocence, and bonfires. With other song titles as suggestive as “La Camilla o la Mascara de Gas” and “Anoche Te Pille Durmiendo,” I don’t think I’m too far out with my Halloween theory.
First single “Vamos a Almorzar” is a fast-paced, catchy number of entrancing irony and paradox writing. The kind of seemingly “soft bite” track that’s actually bursting with painful memories. “Hey, why don’t we go visit our mother?” sings Parra. “We might form the happy family… to become what we never were.” This is a song of open wounds by all means, a track structured as a conversation about stomping into adulthood with a few ghosts scratching over the family scars. But as with any family, a mother’s emblematic dish and beauty is enough to start the healing process. Oddly enough, the artist recorded this hot-blooded track while pregnant. Musically, Parra can be situated among Spain’s Russian Red and Venezuela’s Al Cruzar La Calle, lyrically, she’s in a whole other league. Flores Como Gatos feels effortless and gorgeous in its analog methods. As her iconic aunt (Violeta Parra) used to say, “destruye la métrica, grita en vez de cantar, sopla la guitarra y tañe la corneta.”