No Lo Siento, I love Mexrrissey!

No Lo Siento, I love Mexrrissey!

by jessicajolly / Apr 15, 2016 / 0 comments
Thursday, 14 April 2016

When you hear about a world-music cover of a pop song, the best images don’t always come to mind. They tend to be: elevator/grocery store music, karaoke, or the time you heard a group of Tibetan monks chant Rage Against the Machine lyrics in yoga class. Reinterpretations can be as ground breaking as Johnny Cash singing Nine Inch Nails or as laborious as American Idol. When I stumbled upon Mexrrissey, a supergroup of Mexican musicians singing Morrissey and The Smiths songs in Spanish, with a horn player and latin percussion, I became equally excited and suspicious. It could be brilliant or it could be painful. IT WAS BRILLIANT.

Mexrrissey accomplishes something unique in that they keep in tact the essence of the original tunes (the tempos remain the same, the melodies untouched), but they add a wondrous Latin American texture and culture that gives the songs a whole new life. You don’t know whether to cha-cha or thrash about with your eyes closed, so you do both. The mastermind of the group, Camilo Lara, said he hoped we’d all “dance like monkeys”, and the Electric Ballroom did his bidding. I suppose the biggest departure from Morrissey the group makes is that they take don't themselves too seriously. Lara's jokes about visas to get out of Mexico and telling us that we could sing in English while he sings the opposite of what we’re saying in Spanish, made listening to songs written by The Pope of Mope an unusually lighthearted affair.

Mexrrissey is eight musicians. Four up front take turns on vocals while covering guitar, bass, and keys. In the back are the drummer, horn player, and two men on Mexican stringed instruments who arguably create the heart of the band’s sound. My friend and I had but one criticism, and that is it can be hard to focus the stage when you’ve got 4 vocalists, plus guests. That said, when the sexy Ceci Bastida took the mic for a few songs, including an epic “Last of the Famous International PlayGIRLS”, the audience was entirely on board for what she was delivering.

A couple of the tunes are perhaps better in concept than execution, such as the salsafied “Girlfriend in a Coma”, but most of the night was pitch-perfect. I struggle to think of anything more fun than twisting to the ground and jumping into the air for “Panic” or the Spanglish sing-a-long to “Bigmouth Strikes Again.” A thrashy guitar battle made you forget all about the absence of Johnny Marr. Mexrrissey works so well because the musicianship is truly top-notch. This is no pub room tribute act.

Mexrrissey will be back to Morrissey’s country of birth, I am certain of this. Whatever your feelings for Mozzy may be, unless you hate pop music, harbour admiration for Donald Trump, or are allergic to having fun, you will love their gigs.

Photo by Geoff Wilson.

Rating out of 11: