By Alejandro Pérez
At first, it appears that Pacto de Sangre, the new disc from working-class legends Los Tigres del Norte, is going to stick to their tried-and-true formula.
There's the mix of rancheras, cumbias, waltzes, and baladas that fans who have followed the group for more than three decades have come to expect, and they alternate between their tentpole themes of immigration and amor, cantando corridos straight from the headlines and, well, everything else, from the personal ads to the society pages, with a dash of telenovela heartbreak for good measure. But even before you play Pacto, the liner notes prepare you for a different sort of album: one more somber, serious, and urgent.
Instead of the band pictures which usually grace the insert - 2002's Reina del Sur even came with a magnet advertising them - beyond the group photos on the back and cover, the guys are nowhere to be found. In their place are powerful images of la frontera and the people whose lives are separated, changed, or ended alongside it: a rusted fence, railroad cars, automobiles lined up at a checkpoint, and the grim spectre of a series of brightly colored coffins commemorating the dead women in Juárez.
That Los Tigres address social issues as easily as they play romantic ballads like the melodic "Va Por Ahí," a slow despedida about leaving to look for another love, sets them apart from contemporaries like Tucanes de Tijuana (who will forever remain a decent, if superficial, pop group). To the mix Pacto de Sangre also includes "Chin Marín," a lively huapango: the fun, frivolous "Cumbia Guajira;" and "Liar, Liar." But even that lighthearted number about a lover who will no longer fall for false promises manages to sneak in some substance. With its bilingual refrain "You're a liar, liar, liar/mentirosa eso eres para mi/ wait a moment, wait a moment/I'm not anymore the tonto I use to be" the narrator could be singing to Bush or Fox instead of his ex. This unspoken critique of binational betrayal links what might otherwise be a forgettable bit of filler with the albumn's weightier tunes. Coming from Los Tigres, could you expect anything less? •