Maracaibo, La Estrella de David
by Pierre Lestruhaut
Let’s just get the obvious stuff out first. Like most people writing about La Estrella de David’s Maracaibo have been pointing out, David Rodríguez is indeed that sort of discreet figure that’s silently but importantly contributing to shaping the sound of a particular scene, in this case, one that features some of our more beloved Spanish indie acts. Because whether it’s through the delayed influence of his band Beef or his production work in Romancero and LP2, he’s constantly being referred to as an influence for many indie bands from that side of the Atlantic. Added to that is the fact that this latest release features collaborations from musicians of that scene (La Bien Querida, Joe Crepúsculo, Za!, Thelemáticos), all of this to say this was a well-anticipated album, not only for us, but especially for every Spanish publication out there with a weakness for indie bands.
Initial tracks in Maracaibo show Rodríguez’s intentions to continue in his rediscovery of Spanish pop songwriting, yet it’s halfway through the album that he starts walking a more interesting territory. After his Cluster-inspired ambient piece, “La Gran Fiesta de la Democracia Parte 1,” follows the slightly dissonant yet simple “Parte 2,” which is filled with a Spacemen 3-like atmosphere and the experimentalism of his Beef era. Yet the standout tracks in Maracaibo are probably his blues rock number, “El Más Romano del Mundo,” and his heavily romantic and simple “Un Último Esfuerzo,” where Rodríguez exercises himself in building yet another nicely crafted romantic song around a simple two chord pattern and its occasionally encompassing keyboards. And, as has always been common with most Spanish pop (indie or not), the record finds its best lines precisely in this romantic backdrop (“ella me da la certeza, subiendo las escaleras”), which our own Enrique Coyotzi described as “deeply moving manifestations” in his review of the track.
Eventually, a lot of the songs on this album feel either like inconsequential eclecticism, like “Decathlon” and its gypsy rhythm explorations, or weary revisions of Spanish traditional songwriting, like the cover version of Julio Iglesias’ “La Carretera.” While his more politically suggestive lyrics and one liners, like “se tiró el último pedo” or “nunca ganaremos Eurovisión,” fall terribly short of those in Los Punsetes’ LP2. Overall, it’s not like Rodríguez has done much to change his band’s sound, since most of its conspicuous elements (careless interpretation and unpolished-yet-sometimes-charming production) remain throughout the record. But what’s a little unsettling about it is how most of it just doesn’t quite reach the bar that was set by (and yes, I’m returning to those two records in particular) Romancero and LP2, with all of their inventive instrumentation and lyrical force, which was perhaps what we were hoping to see a little more of in Maracaibo.