Chetes - Hipnosis

Hipnosis, Chetes
EMI, Mexico
Rating: 54
By Andrew Casillas

Your ultimate feeling on Luis Gerardo Garza essentially rests on your opinion of Paul McCartney. Disdainful or admirable, repulsing or charming; it’s very hard to find a middle ground when analyzing his artistic structure. Musically, each is a big believer in using music as a whimsical and optimistic tool, where to be bittersweet is the ultimate touch of honesty, and any self-façade is completely void of mystery. These are not simple tasks, and, in fact, they've both succeeded within their fields, with their most successful moments so distinctive that they've entered the lexicon as almost aphoristic statements of musical affectivity (and if you don't believe me, just think about how similar "Let It Be" and "Para Siempre" are in the abstract).

Of course, Paul McCartney is roughly 2,386x more popular than Garza, better known as Chetes, will ever be. Not to mention that Macca started his career 35 years earlier, too. So to really call any of the distinctions made in this piece a strict comparison isn’t quite fair. Still, Chetes’ career trajectory seems to be leading him towards essentially becoming Paul McCartney. From his place in Mexican rock powerhouse Zurdok, where his more relaxed and professional lead approach stood in clear contrast to Fernando Martz’s raw vocal styling, to his solo output’s blatant-pop direction, Chetes clearly commiserates and understands what it’s like to be a pop storyteller operating under a normative rock band scheme. As his solo career has progressed, Chetes' work has become increasingly sentimental and technical, sometimes to great effect (“Efecto Domino,” “Completamente,” and the giddy, peak-era McCartney pastiche of “Camino a Casa”), but wasn’t afraid to let his eccentricity bounce off the wall (notably on the bubblegum stomper “Cancion Optimista” and the traditional Mexican homage “El Sonido de Tu Voz”--which, for what it’s worth, I’ve always thought of as the first cousin of Selena’s “No Me Queda Mas”). Two albums in, Chetes had carved out a commendable, if still not remarkable, niche of reliability within the Mexican pop scene.

Moving on to the third album, one would expect more of the same, right? Not for Chetes, who uses Hipnosis as an opportunity to open up his sound by actually reining it in. No more fanciful excursions to other genres, no more backbeat time keeping, no more…rock and roll. Nope, this is the sound of Chetes indulging his pop sensibilities, resulting in one of the most disappointing albums of the year. Things start out more than okay, “Espera Tu Turno” finding Chetes’ vocals in top form, with a slinky and cool orchestra exterior weaving with some ace percussion and bass playing. Really, if there are any readers out there writing a spy thriller of some kind, you’d be wise to try appropriating this into your screenplay at some point (and believe me, I know there are a few of you doing that exact same thing as we speak).

But aside from that grand highlight, Hipnosis gradually eviscerates into a mix of MOR arena rock and aimless pop star posturing, akin to some of the filler off of U2’s No Line on the Horizon. Perhaps most suspect is “La Ciencia No Es Exacta,” which contains one of the album’s few distinctive instrumentals and pairs it with what sounds like Chetes mumbling. This approach would work if the song had something interesting to say or developed any sense of evocative mood, but it’s simply lifeless. There are a few half-decent tracks on the album (“Ecos y Ruidos” hits the right note, if you’re still awake to even pay attention to it), but it’s telling that the album’s second best moment is actually a demo of the title track. As a working song, “Hipnosis” is stripped of its sheen and pomp, and instead concentrates on Chetes’ vocals while production effects play with the acoustic guitar at the song’s center. That the final effect is to complete a track worthy of being described as “Blackbird” mixed with Ram is no small compliment. And that takes me back to my original proposition: At his best, Chetes, just like the master Macca, can create singular music for the sensitive, ever-youthful soul. At his worst, you’re left with something without weight or tact. Of course, if this “Blackbird” mixed with Ram doesn’t sound appealing to you, well then forget everything I've said, since this probably isn't for you. Let's just hope to God that Chetes gets back on track before he starts putting out shit like this.