A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1990
Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
When we were proposed this “A year in music” thing, I decided that the best way for me (especially for music from when I was alive) was to relate the albums to my personal history, since that gives me a sense of perspective. In that respect, 1990 is a very particular year. It was the year I finished high school and started college, with an awesome summer in between, and as such I always am surprised when I look at lists of albums from 1990 because they seem to cover a larger timespan than one year – because albums from early 1990 are remembered as “happening” to a totally different person than albums from late 1990.
But I don’t want to make this too personal, because then I’d have to select as “most important” Led Zeppelin’s Remasters (the 2-CD summary of their box set), which was only second to the Rolling Stones’ show in Barcelona in shaping my future listening self (no, I didn’t attend, I saw it on TV). So, from an overall perspective I’d say the album of 1990 in my immediate surroundings was “Senderos de Traición” by Héroes del Silencio (a band which is mainly known by 3 groups of people: a) Spanish-speaking audiences, b) Germans – if the contemporary accounts of their success there are accurate – and c) players of Guitar Hero 3). But really, in late 1990 and especially 1991 the hits from this album were EVERYWHERE, and the guys were bona fide stars. I personally didn’t like them, but I don’t know whether that was due to my recent allegiance to classic rock (“everything after 1979 is shit”) which today seems to me like the faith of the converse (yes, in the 80s I liked Italo disco and I’m not ashamed anymore), or to my dislike to what I perceived as unfounded arrogance. In fact I didn’t reconcile with the Héroes until I read some refreshingly self-deprecating comments by singer Enrique Bunbury after they had already disbanded.
Or maybe it was because they didn’t play guitar hero solos. Listening to it today, although the album historically fit into the “return to rock” aesthetic of the early 90s, sonically it’s still got some of the 80’s earmarks. Not the most plastic elements of that – Phil Manzanera’s production is organic enough – but the guitars have those clean-sound-with-reverb-echo-and-chorus/flanger earmarks of the Smiths / U2 / Simple Minds persuasion. Guitarist Juan Valdivia plays few solos, and those he plays are usually built around the chord changes instead of indulging in blues rock cliches, and prefers to devise arpeggio patterns. Singer Enrique Bunbury harmonizes with himself here and there, which together with his powerful and affected voice made him sound larger than life (that he seemed to pattern some of his on-stage demeanor after Jim Morrison in an era in which people were more or less rediscovering the Doors also helped), and the songs were a bit of a mix of hard rock attitude, goth rock sounds and pop sensibilities. Maybe a good comparison could be the then-contemporary The Cult. So, overall, an album that I remember as being in the environment rather than belonging to MY personal history, but which I can recommend today without hesitation.