Calamaro Toasts to Himself

By: José Manuel Simián

If there’s one thing we Calamaro fans miss, it’s the good old days when our hero was the underdog. You know, when he left Argentina for Spain because, among other things, his music wasn’t getting the popular reaction he expected. The days of his brilliant 1989 album, Nadie Sale Vivo de Aquí, when everything was honest and the sky was the limit.

But then came the bi-continental success of his Spanish-Argentine band Los Rodríguez during the ’90s and his 1997 masterpiece, Alta Suciedad. Calamaro was suddenly in the sky and nothing would ever be the same. As you probably know, after that the musician embarked on a trip of musical excess (like a 103-song, quintuple set) with predictably uneven results. In a way, everything Calamaro has done since Alta Suciedad—and he has made some great albums, like El Cantante and El Palacio de las Flores—has been an attempt at returning to that early brilliance.

That’s why when you watch the video for Bohemio’s first single, “Cuando No Estás,” you know exactly what the whole album will sound like. In the clip, a model plays Calamaro, reenacting some famous scenes of “Flaca,” Alta Suciedad’s biggest hit. It’s just a joke, you may say, but we beg to differ. Just like with the music—one of his signature mid-tempo rockers—the video shows Calamaro stuck in previous achievements. And if you’re paying attention to the lyrics, you may come out even more disappointed: “Cuando No Estás” recycles a parachute metaphor from “Paloma,” one of his best songs, something that happens elsewhere in the record. (“Tantas Veces” quotes at least two songs Calamaro has already recorded.)

But if you’re willing to accept the fact that Calamaro has become a bit like the Rolling Stones, putting albums out to tour behind them, waiting for a song to stick in the canon here or there, then Bohemio will reward you. You may discover a few verses that still surprise you, enjoy the great Cachorro López production or the tight combinations of rock with bolero and tango, and relish the fact that Calamaro is still alive and kicking. Us? We’ll toast to that, indeed, while thinking about some old Calamaro verses. Those in which he said he’d toast to victory, to a tie and to failure. Because Bohemio is not much more than a tie, but a solid one at that.

José Manuel Simián is the Executive Editor of Manero. He used to be a lawyer and is probably listening to Bob Dylan as you read this.