Album review: Chikita Violenta – "Tre3s"

Chikita Violenta is a Mexican indie rock band that is trying to make waves in a very crowded scene right now. They have the sound and the songs and, mostly, the production backing them up. Unfortunately they are about 6 years behind the times in their efforts making this album sound nearly exactly like what Broken Social Scene was doing back in 2005 with their self-titled release.

It’s not just the sound itself that reminds me of the Broken Social Scene album, or that the same sort of spirit is captured on this album; it is that they pretty directly steal from that album. For example there are spots in “All I Need’s A Little More” that sounds as if it was lifted directly from “It’s All Gonna Break”. Parts of “Tired” are pretty damn close to “Handjobs for the Holidays”. I was wondering what the hell was going on with this album so I started doing a very cursory look around the internet. Normally I don’t look up anything about the band online when I am writing a review, other than to find out member’s names and exact dates of albums for accuracy’s sake. I don’t ever read other people’s reviews of albums and I usually don’t care about how an album was produced unless something really interesting strikes my ear, for example with Women’s albums. I like my reviews to be completely 100% based upon what I hear, but this time I couldn’t let it go. Curiosity got the best of me.

Well….guess what? Chikita Violenta is on Arts & Crafts, the label founded by the main men behind Broken Social Scene. If that wasn’t enough, this album was produced by the very same guy, David Newfeld, that produced Broken Social Scene’s 2005 self titled album. After I patted myself on the back for having such good ears to pick that out (not that it was too difficult being that it was made completely obvious) my appreciation for this album quickly waned. If I would have written a review upon my first few listens, it would have been fairly positive, but then those little things started becoming more noticeable and before long they were spreading like a pox and I couldn’t keep myself from paying attention to them.

Chikita Violenta - "Tre3s"

The sound is molded perfectly to fit that “anthemic” sort of “new wave of arena rock” that none other than Broken Social Scene, and I suppose to some extent those “other” (well, they were the “other” and now are the ones that are more relevant) Canadian arena rockers Arcade Fire, popularized in the early 2000’s. Who could blame them? It’s a great sound. Memorable, emotional, loud and busy. It’s great at filling up all the spaces where music should go with all sorts of wonderment and awe. It’s the sound that could describe that feeling one gets when confronted with something completely amazing, and profound; some grand sight that makes a person feel a oneness with humanity for a fleeting moment. It is the sound of that experience that they are attempting to bottle and make last forever.

Don’t get me wrong, or do get me wrong if you’d like. I don’t like to rip on bands. I don’t really do it that much, or ever. Chikita Violenta is not a bad band. They have written some really catchy tunes, but it seems as though we are prevented from hearing them after all this mimicry is piled on top of it. This places them squarely in the very long shadow cast by some trailblazing indie rock bands. “The Monster (Was Last Seen Approaching the Power Plant)” begins promisingly enough with some Spanish guitar that momentarily breathes new life into the album before everything is once again covered up by a mass of loops, samples and effects in a great whoosh of sound that envelops everything in its warm, stale cocoon.

There are some shining moments on the album, beginning with “Siren” which is a truly affecting song with some emotional power behind it. The latter third of the album seems to strip away at least some of the overdone production and gives us at least some clue as to the group’s abilities as a band. “My Connection”, the album closer, is about as stripped down as it gets here and, unsurprisingly, it is one of the highlights of the album.

Being influenced is one thing, but coming off as almost completely derivitive is another. It is my opinion that this is a band that truly wants to get their music out there, and to be honest, what band doesn’t? The way that Chikita Violenta has chosen to do this though was to attach themselves to the successes of another group and totally relinquish control to the producer in order to capture that certain “sound”, a sound that has already been captured by others.

They need more confidence in their songs. If their songs can stand on their own without the studio wizardry then they will stand out in the crowd. Today’s music scene demands a certain amount of originality. I think that the songs contained within this album may have that desired level of originality, but again, it is hard to tell with all the production piled on top of it. Music shouldn’t be produced like in a factory.