Los Planetas - Una Ópera Egipcia

Una Ópera Egipcia, Los Planetas
Sony Music Entertainment, Spain
Rating: 77
By Blanca Méndez

Los Planetas’ latest album Una Ópera Egipcia, immediately brings to mind Guiseppe Verdi’s epic tale of love and war, Aida. In Verdi’s renowned opera, the Ethiopian princess Aida has been captured and forced into slavery in Egypt, and Ethiopia has invaded to free their beloved princess. Egyptian commander Radames has been selected by the Pharaoh to lead the army against Ethiopia, and he must choose between his loyalty to his country and his love for Aida. While Los Planetas may not bring quite the same level of drama with their latest album, they certainly tell a captivating story.

The opening track, “La llave de oro,” is a bold instrumental piece that sets the stage for the rest of the album, much like a prelude sets the stage for the rest of the opera. With Una Ópera Egipcia Los Planetas continue to be inspired by flamenco, though not quite so much as on earlier albums, like La leyenda del espacio. Here they venture out into the pop and rock styles that have earned them comparisons to Joy Division and Sonic Youth.

“Siete Faroles” is an infectious work of kaleidoscopic pop, rich with all the colors and textures of peppy guitars, buoyant keyboards, a sturdy bass line, and a velvety voice – a guaranteed hit. In “No sé como te atreves,” another crowd pleaser, the band is joined by the ever-charming La Bien Querida. This tune of unrequited love requited too late is a masterfully executed duet and arguably the best song on the album. La Bien Querida also appears on, or should I say sings almost in entirety, “La Veleta,” an electronic track that might be more at home on her album than on this one but manages to adhere, however loosely, to the plot of Una Ópera Egipcia. The inclusion of “Soy un Pobre Granaino” and “Romance de Juan de Osuna,” two songs featured on previous albums (Principios básicos de astronomía and Cuatro palos EP, respectively), may be puzzling to some. It might even seem like a cop out. But the songs fit well into the narrative of the album and help develop its story, which is essential to any opera.

The second half of the album transitions into a darker, more mystical sound. “Virgen de la soledad” features drawn out and enigmatic vocals over the instrumentation of “La llave de oro,” a pairing that is almost disconcerting, yet still intriguing. And the closer, “Los poetas,” is a nearly 10-minute-long echoing electro flamenco declaration of love to God. Perhaps so much longing and heartbreak on the rest of the album led to the realization that God is the only one to love (de todo lo que hay, el amo único”). It’s not quite as poetic as the ending of Aida, but, unlike Aida, the ending of Una Ópera Egipcia is not a definite end, but a possible new beginning. And while the album may not exactly be the grandiose work of art suggested by its title (there are no gold crowns, damsels in distress, or brave armored soldiers here), it is still a story worth telling.