Summer is upon us, which can only mean one thing: road trip time. And what’s one of the most important elements of any good road trip? The soundtrack. For the summer of ’09, Los Amigos Invisibles swoop down like funky synth-rocking disco-dancing superheroes to save the day with their new album Commercial. This is the group’s sixth studio release since 1995, and their first for Nacional Records, a label that’s been doing a solid job lately of releasing the best in Latin alternative electronic and dance (Mexican Institute of Sound, Nortec Collective).
The album opens with “Fuerza,” a 30-second mission statement of sorts (a commercial, you might say) that features a radio DJ voice listing a bunch of Spanish synonyms for the word “force.” This track launches immediately into the funkiest and most forceful track on Commercial (“Mentiras”). I can see a group of friends in a cramped Honda heading for the beach, singing in unison “Esas son puras mentiras.” After this upbeat and happy-go-lucky track, the album takes it slower, using its synths and funk guitars for sexier, more mellow (but no less danceable) purposes. “Sueno Erotico” sounds like what you’d expect a song with that title to sound like, as it drips with sexy-smooth disco sensibility. Much of Commerical has a disco sensibility, but the Amigos borrow from the few redeeming aspects of the genre and meld them with modern influences to create a sound that is very familiar to anyone who grew up with parents who came of age in the ‘70s and still played their vinyl records every now and again.
After spending most of the first ten tracks flirting with disco, the album takes a sudden turn for the weird. “Como Sabes Tu” has hints of those disco synths, but laid over a hyper beat that feels like it doubles the beats per minute rate of previous songs on the album. The song doesn’t come to an end, rather it just gets cut off abruptly and is replaced with the fuzzy chugga-chugga guitars of “Merengue Killa.” Just when it sounds like the Amigos will try to go death metal on us, the loud track also ends abruptly, after 60 seconds, and we end up with another minute-long clip, this one a dub-reggae interlude. Curveballs like that make this album an odd listening experience. If you want just a straightforward album, this one might turn you off a little. But don’t be dissuaded; Los Amigos Invisibles have crafted a fun album that goes well with summer weather, tropical cocktails, and dancing under the night sky.