Malportado Kids‘ Total Cultura EP starts off with what seems like a disclaimer, when singer Victoria Ruiz proudly sings “Soy La Pocha” like she doesn’t really care her Spanish is broken. “Soy casi bilingüe,” she shouts over a fun Mexican-influenced beat, like a bizarre mashup between old Jessy Bulbo and Capullo (or new Jessy Bulbo, for that matter). For those of you listening to the band for the first time, that’s the perfect introduction to their blunt, no-apologies approach, as well as to their mutant tropical music/punk hybrid.
Ruiz and Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, of punk outfit Downtown Boys, are Malportado Kids, and Total Cultura is the follow-up to the Providence, RI duo’s 2014 Mi Concha EP, and their first on Dead Labour. Here they continue to pursue their mission to change minds by sending strong political messages over frantic music you can dance to. Take, for example, “Bruja Cósmica” and its topic about immigrants, where Ruiz warns white America to watch out against the powers of “la bruja,” who can even be “la dama que hace la cama.”
Since the lyrics and their message are the most important things in Malportado Kids’ music, we’d loved it if they had emphasized them a bit more, because sometimes it’s hard to figure out what they’re trying to say, even if the vocals work perfectly with the music. But when the lyrics do come through, they hit hard. “Basta Huedo” (which kind of sounds more like “hasta luego”) is a straight-up, high-octane anti-colonialist anthem. She screams “little ass/little hands/give me back/my fucking land,” right before dropping into a hip hop break, where Norlan Olivo, DeFrancesco’s bandmate on Downtown Boys, raps about getting harassed by cops every day.
And that’s how, before you know it, you’ve danced your way through seven statements about race, immigration, white supremacy, and more politically-charged themes. Musically, the EP is filled with intriguing, contrasting qualities. For instance, “1492 Overture” is a party track that features an infantile xylophone melodic line, which you wouldn’t think matches with shouting and caustic bass sounds, but it somehow works. On “Fuego” they find themselves exploring tribal, with its characteristic triplets performed with steel drum samples.
On the digital edition of Total Cultura, Malportado Kids have included a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” because, what’s more white gringo than Springsteen? They turned it into a synth-heavy ballad and its inclusion is so ironic it feels right. Welcome to the danceable propaganda world of Malportado Kids.