A mood of morbidity underscores “Mabuse,” the teaser track Los Punsetes have just released ahead of their forthcoming album !Viva!, slated for reveal March 10. Listen to its message clearly, and the monotonous tone of Ariadna Paniagua’s vocals add a spooky surrealism to what is truly a frightening reality.
With Pablo Díaz-Reixa (aka El Guincho) on board as producer, this fifth full-length promises to be one of the Madrid band’s best. On “Mabuse,” though, there’s not much indication of his influence — this is wholly Los Punsetes’ brand of punk-pop. While we’re certainly interested to see what that pairing brings to the bigger picture, we’re happy to know they’ve also kept their usual inspirations close. (The playlist they’ve compiled for us is certain proof.)
While not Guincho’d out by any stretch, “Mabuse” is actually a departure — a somber one — from the typically wry delivery of condemnations of a capitalist, patriarchal society. In their 13-year-long repertoire, Los Punsetes has often picked easily unlikable targets: abusers, bad friends, living in a police state, people who incessantly spew their “Opinión De Mierda” totally unsolicited. “Mabuse,” though, isn’t so straightforward.
As the song’s thoroughly despondent subject assigns personal affects to the family they’ll leave behind, they will likely evoke sympathy — yet, if there’s any real chance for extraction from their rock-bottom depression, empathy would really be far more helpful. A question left unanswered figures prominently in leading to their current state — why?
Dejo mis discos a mi novia
Dejo mis libros a mis hijos
Dejo mis hijos a mi novia
Para que puedan poner discos
Dejo mi ropa en un cajón
Del armario de mi habitación
Ordenada por color y tamaño
Se pondrá de moda dentro de unos años
Dejo mi sombra en la pared
Un fantasma sobre el gotelé
Y una pregunta que te hice
Y no supiste responder
Y tres o cuatro canciones a medias
Un par de ellas no están mal
Hablan de cosas que parecen serias
Pero en el fondo dan igual
As plain as the lyrics make its message, “Mabuse” is, in fact, more complicated than that. The subject of inspiration here is Doctor Mabuse, the sinister mastermind first made famous in Fritz Lang’s series of films beginning in the early 1920s. As vile as he is powerful, Mabuse profits from the wreckage he orchestrates, from a stock market panic to the kidnapping and imprisoning of a countess who rejected him, then later murdering her husband. Eventually, Mabuse finds himself in a psychiatric hospital, overwhelmed by the memories of his horrendous crimes.
Are we to hear “Mabuse” as if it were the doctor’s own suicide note? Or could it be the one written by the count, who Mabuse murdered by using his powers of suggestion to force suicide? Depending on the answer, the appropriateness of feeling sympathy or empathy for the subject drastically changes — maybe highlighting that emotional discrepancy was Los Punsetes’ intent all along.
Stream an exclusive playlist inspired by Los Punsetes’ influences below: