Treacle and Trouble
Emos, Mexico and Timbiriche's sweet nostalgia trip
For the past month, the media eyes of Earth have focused on Mexico—not for its violent drug wars, unchecked hemorrhaging of Mexicans to the United States, or even golfer Lorena Ochoa, but for emos. Sí, emos—those mopey, fey, dark-dressing creatures of the night who are much-ridiculed wherever their multiple piercings gleam under concert lights. Seems Mexico’s other musical scenesters—punks, metalheads, almost everyone except the emos—hate them so much that pseudo-pogroms have sprouted across Mexico against these Lost Boys and Girls.
Bloggers, radio hosts, and reporters ranging from the BBC to Time have theorized about the root cause of the movimento anti-emo. Class conflict? Machismo? The fact that emos really, truly are a cancer to the world, and that Dashboard Confessional is two marbles short of manhood? But what’s probably most shocking to non-Latino news outlets is the idea that Mexico has any pop-musical movement not based in sombreros, accordions, or mestizo rhythms.
“Pop culture” and “Mexico” seem as congruent as “Minuteman” and “Aztlanista” to an America weaned on Mexican depictions through the prism of Lou Dobbs and his Know Nothing ilk. But since the dawn of pop culture in the United States, Mexico has had its cheaply made counterpart, from the Elvis-esque trappings of Los Teen Tops to wannabe Where the Boys Are beach films of the 1960s to today’s imitations of Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, and other such boob-tube effluvia. Most of the time, these acts thrived only because of the Mexican government’s tacit approval or the backing of television monopoly Televisa. All good Weekly readers should reject such manufactured “stars” on principle, and part of me wants to condemn Timbiriche, a 1980s-era teen-pop group that reunited this year to tour across Mexico and its American territories, and who will invade Long Beach’s Vault 350 this Sunday. But there is much to enjoy about the band—and I’m not just talking about the spicy señoritas.
Timbiriche was created from a group of kids whose parents were mostly Televisa executives or musicians. They dominated Latin American music charts during the 1980s with a treacly, synth-heavy style buttressed by the high voices of early-teen boys and girls. The music never slowed down—think Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” smashed with the Wiggles—unless they trotted out a power ballad for the few band members who didn’t sound like castrati. Play this at a preschool, and all the rugrats will run around like they just swam in a sea of Skittles. Timbiriche’s songs were hilariously, painfully earnest; things don’t get more controversial than “El Gato Rockanrolero,” a song about a hard-rocking cat.
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There is nothing Mexican about Timbiriche except the Spanish lyrics—even the skin tone of most members could trick a casual observer into thinking the group were some German disco outfit. But like the new-wave movement for Southern California Latinos or Scooby Doo for Generation X, Timbiriche are seared into the hearts of any Mexican under the age of 35, as a relic of their youth that isn’t the pinnacle of humanity, but rather addictive nostalgia, a reminder of simpler days and hope for the Mexican nation. And like the oeuvre of their most famous member, the caliente Paulina Rubio (who—damn it!—chose not to participate in the reunion), Timbiriche’s music becomes endearing camp upon multiple listens.
More importantly, Timbiriche represented a crucial tipping point in Mexican pop music. While Mexico’s masses ate up their stuff, the group’s success prompted a backlash from high-minded musicians—not with fists, but with introspection, pondering how to remain Mexican while embracing American musical forms. Out of that came the rock en español movement, from which arose some of the best music of the past 25 years.
That was then. Today, anything in Mexico that goes against Mexican sensibilities is brutalized. Support the emos in their fight against pendejos; support Timbiriche’s sugar. Anything that tweaks the sensibilities of Mexicans is a good thing—unless those Mexicans live in los Estados Unidos, of course. Leave those poor, defenseless souls alone!
Timbiriche perform at the Vault 350, 350 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 590-5566; www.thevault350.com. Sun., 7 p.m. $66.50-$86.50. 18+.