Currently speaking, it’s probable that nostalgia and rock music are linked in more ways than at any point in the genre’s history. Although there’s a built in yearning for the good old days of rock music ever since it had a yesterday to feel nostalgic about, right now this type of music is tied to celebrate itself more than expressing current feelings. Being the first music that many found for ourselves, the power it holds in our personal history ties itself strongly to the general feeling of its own past. Which is why an album so rooted in past sounds like El Shirota’s Tiempos Raros can sound fresh and also serve as a sort of rebirth for the band.
Tiempos Raros might be the beginning of something big but it’s also the end to a hell of a ride. Started by friends from Estado de México, El Shirota turned heads with their 2013 EP Chiluca No Es Satélite, a raw and noisy slice of garage punk and post hardcore. It was soon followed by a pair of untitled EPs, released in 2016 and 2018 but recorded at the same time; expanding their frenetic rock with more experimental and exciting tendencies. These releases, as well as loosies like “Carreta Furacão” and “Tarde/Temprano,” and out-of-control lives shows slowly garnered more attention, securing a scene-stealing slot at festival Nrmal in Mexico City in 2019 as well as booking a session for the world-famous Seattle station KEXP. By the end of 2019, they had embarked on their first international tour, playing a West Coast run of shows. Signing to U.S. alternative label Devil in The Woods, El Shirota are ready for their next step: their first full-length album.
For Tiempos Raros, El Shirota somehow pulled from all their previous guises and shedded much of what made them stand out in the first place. The band has morphed amid various lineup changes yet some elements remain in place: fuzzy guitars, hard-hitting drumming, screaming vocals and a willingness to reach out for something that makes the music deeper. For the most part, Tiempos Raros trades the rage and experimentation of past releases for melody and songcraft, rooting the sound of the album in the alternative ‘90s. You can hear nods to everything from Nirvana, Weezer and Sonic Youth, as well as noisier influences like …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Unwound and Polvo. It taps into the era’s fun but discordant and angsty sentiments while making it contemporary to current aspects. It’s sadboi music, after all.
Tracks like “No Sé Todo,” “Más De Una Vez,” and “El Chirota” could well be power pop-infused grunge classics from forgotten compilations from Sub Pop or Homestead. The tunes in Tiempos Raros get straight to the point, lean to the left field for a few seconds, and leave us with a catchy chorus to remember afterwards. And then there’s “RTL,” a 12 minute electroshock session of guitar feedback and riffs for fans expecting some of that discordant energy, a light at the end of a tunnel that turns out to be a train. It ties the album in a nice way, a wink to their freakier moments in the middle of melodic and melancholic songs.
In Chiluca… there’s a song called “Aquí Hubo Escena,” a nod to Aquí No Hubo Escena, one of the collectives that managed to bring attention to young underground music from various corners of CDMX’s not-so-known scenes. The apex of this era happened in the years leading up to Tiempos Raros, bringing attention to music most people would not have been aware of at the time. Nowadays, most of those collectives are not active anymore, bands have broken up, venues have closed and promoters gone to other careers. Tiempos Raros is not just a historical bookmark for El Shirota but also for a scene they were part of, a send-off to an era of music in the underground scene as well as a fresh chapter for the band to write a story on their own.
Listen to Tiempos Raros here: