VIRUS – Locura (1985)

Review by: Jonathan Birch
Album assigned by: Charly Saenz

My knowledge of Latin rock is limited at best, generally restricted to a few choice names that were popular in the 80s-90s. So it’s no surprise that I had never heard of the Argentine New Wave band Virus. Quick research in their origins showed that they combined new wave sensibilities (synths) with Latin pop, and were most successful in their execution. So much like their contemporaries Soda Stereo, they were an important aspect in the evolution of Argentine rock music.

Because the language is Spanish, my understanding was restricted to the feel and atmosphere of the music, and each track on this album has a very romantic and danceable theme to it. It’s very much a mid 80s sort of production, and from the opening track I felt myself transported to a South American club surrounded by scantily clad women and piles of cocaine…. Okay, a slight exaggeration, but it’s very much music of its time and era. But in a way, the music feels very timeless as well. Each track has a unique hook that catches one’s attention, whether it’s some quirky keyboard chords (like the opening to “Pecados Para Dos”) or a driving drum beat with subdued guitar (“Destino Circular”). Because each track has that distinctive New Wave methodology of being slightly off beat, it reminds one of an Argentine version of Talking Heads or The Cars. Always bouncy, upbeat, and interesting. 

Of course there are slower, more introspective numbers like “Dicha Feliz”, which has layers of soothing electronics and a Pink Floyd-esque synthesizer solo. The bass is hypnotic, the drumming steady and yet punchy, and the lead singer does a fabulous job of keeping his voice silky smooth, and yet still has some character when he sings. He doesn’t just sound like an emotionless disco robot like so much popular Muzak of the era.

“Mi Puedo Programar” has a David Byrne feel to it, another track highlight. However, it is the ending song that I feel has the most poignancy. Because I have the Spanish-speaking level of a three year old, I have no idea what the song itself is about. But damn if the singer doesn’t have a lot of emotional conviction and resonance in his voice. “Imaganes Paganas” is a lyrical, almost haunting number with enigmatic dabbles of electric/acoustic guitar decoration and more synth, that covers the audio like so much sonic wallpaper. It’s a charming end to a classy album.

In short, I couldn’t recommend this enough to fans of New Wave and Latin rock. I may have to listen to this further with my dad, who is also a big fan of Soda Stereo and other Argentine bands. Thanks Charly!