Another Edgy, Sardonic Vallenato Party Album from Very Be Careful
Very Be Careful are notorious as a wild party band: they’re sort of the Pogues of Colombian music. The Freudian cover shot on their new album Remember Me from the Party shows a broken hydrant spraying the street. Very Be Careful play oldschool Colombian vallenato, not the watered-down, studio-slick stuff you might see on Telemundo. With just accordion, vocals, bass and percussion, these guys look back to the 50s and 60s, when this music was the soundtrack to a seedy underworld of criminals and roadhouses. Like roots reggae or Mississippi hill country blues, it’s dance music, but it also has a hypnotic, trance-inducing pulse. On this album, Ricardo Guzman’s accordion swirls and vamps tersely, with sometimes bracingly off-center tonalities, a nod to the indigenous Colombian folk music that vallenato sprang from. His brother Arturo’s reissue Danelectro bass has its intonation just a hair off here, making his fat, boomy notes a little sharp: it’s the opposite of what Family Man Barrett used to do in Bob Marley’s band, and it raises the energy since Guzman pushes the beat. Which is no surprise: as psychedelic as this music can be, it’s not exactly mellow. Underneath, the junkyard clatter of the caja vallenata, cowbell and guacharaca adds a hypnotically roughhewn vibe.
The opening track is El Revuelto (Scrambled Eggs), the accordion working a weird minor-key mode that brings the menace up a notch. It’s a cautionary tale about “not mixing it up too much.” The murderous El Mosquito – about the whining pest that drives you crazy at night and must be killed – switches back and forth between waltz time. Cinco Centavos is a cumbia, its marching minor-key tune contrasting with the wry lyrics.
Los Dulces (Sweets) has a raucous, percussive bounce that reminds of the crazier side of Mexican banda music, while the brisk, insistent El Millonario has a punk-infused snarl. The pulsing waltz El Rapidol is available as a free download; the album ends with the tongue-in-cheek El Encuentro, with its busy, bubbly bassline.
Along with the originals, the album has five covers. The oldest is Luis Enrique Martinez’ Cumbia del Valledupar. The band takes the rustic tribute to the Colombian city, gives it a haphazard punk edge and a long accordion vamp out – it’s abouit twice as long as the original. La Democracia is slower, more deliberate and more vividly sarcastic than Juancho Polo Valencia’s 1960s hit.Very Be Careful’s version of Alfredo Gutierrez’ El Envenanao (The Drunk) begins less boisterously – it’s an amusingly over-the-top tale of a hopeless character who’s letting his family fall apart – then pulls it up closer to punk. There’s also a bouncy take of Samuel Martinez’ wryly self-referential La Loma, and a steady, nonchalant cover of Alejo Duran’s Nacira. Very Be Careful have New York roots and play here frequently, typically splitting their time between SOB’s and Barbes, with the ever-present possibility of a last-minute rooftop party somewhere; watch this space.