Haciendo Leña, Juan Cirerol
Intolerancia / Vale Vergas Discos, Mexico
by Jean-Stephane Beriot
“A storyteller, a romantic, and a stylist of the popular song,” wrote Carlos Reyes about Juan Cirerol when introducing that masterpiece-by-a-débutant named Ofrenda al Mictlan. As dramatic and divisive as the music of Cirerol is, I think we all can agree he’s the definition of an endearing success story – one in which you can’t help but to be emotionally invested. In little over a year, the Mexicali hero went from a roaring tiny venue performer to becoming one of this year’s biggest attractions at Vive Latino.
Dynamic vocals, mad guitar skills, and a cordial understanding of the vernacular don’t even start to describe the artistry of Cirerol, whose folk faculty and generation timing constitute for a career that is as much about philosophy as it is about pop culture. If his debut was a set of one-man symphonized offerings to Mictlan (the underworld of Aztec mythology), Haciendo Leña is the subsequent campfire that summons a man’s carnal disposition with his surrounding chaos. The music of Juan Cirerol has surpassed all notions of novelty and vanity, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped appraising methods for artistic arrival. Most decisions made on the album work, while a few sit in grey areas between auteur modesty and melodic banality. In the album’s opener “Hey Soledad,” we find Cirerol giving a name and physicality to an emptiness in the heart. Soledad refers to that loneliness that accompanies, in this case, the lingering feeling that has followed a border musician into his new residential metropolis (Mexico City).
Another huge peak is "Se Vale Soñar," (reminiscent of Juan Luis Guerra's "Ojala Que Llueva Café") which paints a criminal landscape where Cirerol prays for a rain of perico (cocaine) and for rivers of cerveza. Where the singer falls a bit short to envelop is in the lighter, heart-on-his-sleeve moments (“Mi Corazon Lloró” and “Mi Amor Acabará” in particular), where the chords and lyrics lose their incisive histrionics and are substituted by a widespread of the broken heart. As far as composition goes, Haciendo Leña displays fondness to certain genre niches not easily spotted on Cirerol’s debut. Highlight tracks, like the narcotic “Corrido de Roberto” and the whimsical-arriving-at-bluegrass “Canción al Ocio,” unpeel a punk essence in an artist that once recorded drums for Monterrey’s dismantled punk cult band, Mama Burger (Nene Records).
Despite the punk resurgence, Haciendo Leña is a record that was (perhaps mistakenly) preoccupied with a glossy production (the same way The Tallest Man On Earth only reaches the outstanding with low-key demos and live performance). The transition from a resourceful DIY session into a proper recording drowned some of the effervescence and charm (yes, I miss the guitar’s quasi wall of sound, the accidental drunken burping, and the unprompted howling). Still, Cirerol’s contribution to music this year is remarkable. Somehow, it seems that the expansion of Mexican folklore to the cool kids of the world is no longer exclusive to Café Tacvba, but has found a new blessed emissary (with an increasing cult following), that as title of the album claims, is kicking ass.