Classics of Latin Music: ‘Sin Documentos’ by Los Rodríguez

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There’s much talk these days in the sports world about “super teams”, when stars from various teams join forces to create a juggernaut. NBA star Kevin Durant’s move to the Golden State Warriors created one of the greatest basketball teams ever last season, much like soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona recruited Uruguayan Luis Suárez and Brazilian Neymar a few years ago to team them up with living legends Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta and wreak havoc on opponents across Europe. A similar dynamic occurs in the music world when formerly successful musicians decide to fuse their talents and form a super band. Examples can be found in most any genre. Think of The Three Tenors in opera or Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young in folk rock. Latin music has had its share of super groups as well, from Serú Girán in the 1970s to Alex, Jorge y Lena in the 2010s. One of the best was Los Rodríguez, an Argentine-Spanish hybrid that produced some of the funkiest music in Spanish during a handful of glorious years in the early 1990s.

Los Rodríguez was born when Ariel Rot and Julián Infante, formerly of the enormously influential band Tequila, joined forces with Andrés Calamaro, who made his name as part of another legendary group, Los Abuelos de la Nada. In collaboration with other musicians such as Germán Vilella and Daniel Zamora, the new super band had a brief but memorable career, which began in small clubs around Madrid and included two highly successful albums, “Sin Documentos” (“Without Documents”) in 1993 and “Palabras Más, Palabras Menos” (“More Words, Fewer Words”) in 1995. Their innovative combination of rock and blues with traditional Spanish and Latin American sounds earned them critical attention and a devoted audience, and some of their songs, like the bittersweet “Todavía una Canción de Amor” (“And Yet a Love Song”) have been embraced by a brand new generation. This is great and all, but fans shouldn’t forget that Los Rodríguez was also a kickass rock band which could, when it wanted, bring out the electric guitars and just let loose. The best example is also possibly their best song, the title single of “Sin Documentos”.

Written by Calamaro, the song is pure rock anthem, a fast-paced, headbanging joy trip that could have been scored by The Ramones or the Rolling Stones. The lyrics are simplicity itself, an ode to love and desire from a besotted boy to an unattainable girl: “I want to be the only one who bites your mouth/ I want to know that life with you will never end”. Here and there Calamaro’s penchant for lyricism comes through – “Let me traverse the wind without documents” is the song’s first line – but what makes the song unforgettable is the musical arrangement. The album “Sin Documentos” is now remembered for bringing in flamenco sounds to rock en español, but there’s nary a castanet to be heard anywhere, just the drums-guitar-bass sound of classic rock. The result is earworm-level unforgettable. No wonder that it’s been covered and remade by some outstanding Latin rockers, most recently Julieta Venegas.

Some songs are great because they are simple, because they eschew pretension, because their only concern is sounding good. “Sin Documentos” is one of them. One of the best. Enjoy.

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