“Don’t call me ‘gringo’/you fucking beaner/stay on your side/of the goddamn river/don’t call me ‘gringo’/you beaner”
“No me digas ‘beaner’ Mr. Puñetero/te sacaré un susto por racista y culero/No me llames ‘frijolero’/pinche gringo puñetero”
— Molotov’s “Frijolero”
In an old conversation with Guillermo Gómez Peña published on pochanostra.com, Josh Kun nearly hits the nail on the head describing the Mexican rock band Molotov:
“Take a band like Molotov, who mix Chicano-inflected hip-hop with metal, who are from Mexico City, and who are signed to Universal. Their politics are supposedly progressive. They’re anti-`former Mexican president Ernesto` Zedillo, anti-PRI, anti-Televisa; they rap about political corruption and media hypocrisy, about economic injustice and call for redistributions of power. And yet, they are fully misogynist and homophobic and supposedly came out at one point as big supporters of the `conservative` PAN. Yet people have been writing about their music as radical and revolutionary. They’ve gotten support from leftist intellectuals like Carlos Monsiváis. But is this musical leftism? Is this progressive? How do we talk about this kind of production that frustrates existing political alliances and allegiances?”
Gómez Peña confesses that he’s “not sure,” but offers that “a culture that is used to suppressing anger in the public sphere, maybe it allows the commodification of anger. But on the other hand, groups like Plastilina Mosh and Molotov are more about the performance of anger than the content behind that anger. It is this sexy performative anger that appeals to people more than the political ideals behind it. It is the possibility of saying ‘chingada’ in a song.”
After Gómez Peña correctly responds that “we are already living in a society beyond content, in a world without theory, without ideology, where style is what matters,” Kun comments that his “favorite thing about Molotov is that the gringo from New Orleans in the group, the drummer `Randy Ebright, a.k.a. El Gringo Loco`, landed in Mexico City because his father moved the family there when he was working for the DEA.”
Those kinds of ironies and contradictions are par for the course with Molotov.
Regarding the issue of misogyny, Kun makes a valid point. The low point of any Molotov show is the “Rastamandita” segment, with women getting onstage in a sort of clothed striptease and scatological orgy; it’s crude, tasteless, unfunny and unsexy, morality aside. But, as far as I’m concerned, the whole world is misogynist, some places more than others. Molotov is simply honest and blunt about it, an easy thing to be after you sell more than a million copies of a debut album whose cover features a high-school girl in the back of a car with her legs in the air and panties by her knees (1997’s Dónde jugarán las niñas?, a title that satirizes Manás harmless, ecological Dónde jugarán los niños?).
But the use of the word “puto” has been overblown: puto means a lot of things; it’s not just a derogatory term for “homosexual” (and patrons of gay clubs in Mexico City love the song). As two-time Oscar-winner Gustavo Santaolalla (who produced most of Molotov’s albums) told me years ago, “In the song ‘Puto,’ the word is in no way used as an attack on the homosexual community at all. It’s used like the word turro would be in Argentina, for example, a guy who is ... hmmm ... a wretch, a loser, a bad-vibe guy. It’s not an insult to a homosexual. The lyrics say, ‘Puto, who takes away our grub/Puto who believes what’s on the news ... ’ It’s directed specifically to that type of person. And as for the sexism, the songs are all made with humor and aimed precisely at all that Latino-macho mentality.”
I’m not so sure about that last part, but who cares? The most important thing about Molotov is its originality within a genre that has been going around in circles (great songs, great vocal arrangements, and multi-instrumentalism that makes for dynamic shows). The two-bass lineup turns the band into a powerhouse, and their February 15 show at Club Rio (281 & Bitters) is a rare chance to see one of the top Latin rock bands in action at a local venue that doesn’t suck.
And it almost didn’t happen.
“The thing is between Miky and Tito,” Ebright told me last year amid rumors of the band’s breakup. “Their friction is the most difficult to overcome. Paco and I have the same problem, but not so direct and personal. But now the friction level is down, so hopefully we’ll be able to continue.”
And continue they have. After releasing four separate four-song EPs late last year (promoting each one by lambasting the other three), Molotov is back, though they never really left.
Puto if you don’t come.
TRUE FLAMENCO MASTER WORTH DRIVING FOR: Guitarist Juan Manuel
Cañizares, who toured and recorded with Paco De Lucía for 10 years, will be headlining the 4th
Annual International Guitar Festival in Round Top, about two away from San Antonio. My
advice: Download Suite Iberia, his latest album, and drive. More info on jmcanizares.com and