Album Review: Pescado Rabioso - Artaud (1973)
By Sergio Ariza
One of the masterpieces of Spanish rock
Luis Alberto Spinetta is the outstanding figure of Argentine rock. Together with Almendra he was one of its pioneers and delivered his first masterpiece, the first album by that band, and his most remembered song, Muchacha (ojos de papel). He had also played with other key figures such as Pappo, Billy Bond and Miguel Abuelo, before forming Pescado Rabioso in 1972. With them he embarked on a more hard rock and blues rock adventure, but on their second album together, Pescado 2, he began to flirt with the cursed French poets and with that way of expressing himself that is halfway between philosophy and poetry, and that would define his style from then on.
In addition, he had rediscovered the acoustic, but his bandmates wanted nothing to do with their leader's new twist, so he was left on his own. The incredible thing is that he did it with the best collection of songs of his career under his arm (and we are talking about the best Argentine rock composer), songs that revolved around two essays by Antonin Artaud about Van Gogh and the transgender Roman emperor Heliogábalo; and in which madness and cursing went hand in hand. He called his brother Gustavo to play on drums and his former Almendra bandmates to record them, but instead of making it a solo effort, he decided to use the band name to show his former bandmates that Pescado Rabioso was him.
From the beginning with Todas las hojas son del viento it is clear that this is a colossal work. It is a marvel interpreted with an acoustic that could be considered the spiritual heir of Spinetta's best known song, Muchacha (ojos de papel); not for nothing was it was a song dedicated to the same person, although not with the same guitar, as El Flaco had given the Gibson Dove with which he composed Muchacha to Pappo. Spinetta masterfully doubles his voice and ends the song with a heartfelt guitar solo on the red '64 Stratocaster with which he recorded this album.
Cementerio Club is a slow blues number, out of which he knows how to get all the juice, changing tempos and showing off with his Strat, and being very well accompanied by his brother on drums and his former partner in Almendra, Emilio del Guercio, with his Repiso bass. This album, which was released under the name Pescado Rabioso, but was the first (or second, depending on how you look at it) solo album by Flaco Spinetta, was also a sort of reunion with Almendra. With Spinetta recording Superchería and Las Habladurías del Mundo with Del Guercio and drummer Rodolfo García, making Artaud was something even more special.
After the first electric track, Spinetta returns to acoustic, this time a 12-string, on the delicate Por, another marvel in which Flaco's poetry is woven into one of those melodies that seem to make no sense but end up moving you. This is followed by Superchería, the first of the songs recorded by Spinetta with his two former Almendra bandmates. It is lovely to be delighted with the voices of all three in the stupendous initial verses, before it embarks on an electric storm - there is no Spinetta song without some surprise - until it returns to calm waters, creating a wonderful contrast that leads to a great bridge in which he flirts again with the blues, until arriving again at the beginning/end with Spinetta enjoying himself with the guitar.
La sed verdadera offers another Spinetta solo song, with a complicated melody, which is caressed by his guitars, both acoustic and electric. At a time when rock represented opposition to the dictatorial regime that had just ended in Argentina (but was still hovering over all of Latin America after Pinochet's CIA-funded coup against Allende), Spinetta addresses the listener directly, asking them to take part and not leave all the work to the artist: "la paz en mí nunca la encontrarás/ si no es en vos... creíste en todo lo que te diíste/ y nada salió de vos" (Peace in me you will never find/ if not in you... you believed in everything I gave you/ and nothing came out of you).
Next a light acoustic guitar riff begins one of the great ‘monuments made song’ in the history of rock in Spanish, this is Cantata de Puentes Amarillos. After a wonderful instrumental introduction Spinetta begins to sing in falsetto, in one of the best beginnings to a song that this reviewer has ever heard, and begins to philosophize about surrealism, art and the artist, poetry, Artaud, the emperor Heliogábalo and Vincent Van Gogh. Spinetta is once again in charge of everything that sounds, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, maracas, cymbals and one of the best vocal performances of his career. It's almost ten minutes of near mad genius, full of changes, riffs and new discoveries with every listen.
After this monument, El Flaco delivers the best electric song of the album, and another of the great songs of his career, Bajan, again with his brother and Del Guercio as accompanists. His love for the Beatles is apparent again, with a guitar opening that could have appeared on Abbey Road, but here Spinetta demonstrates his melodic mastery with a song that once again meanders as only he knows how and in which he delivers such marvelous phrases as "Y además vos queres sol/ despacio también podés hallar la luna" (And besides you want sun/ slowly you can also find the moon). Spinetta doubles up on the electric guitar and once again demonstrates that, in addition to being a prodigious composer, he was a guitarist with an edge.
We begin to glimpse the end with A Starosta, el idiota, a song composed on piano that shines again because of the enormous originality of its melody, which is always free and loose, and in which he adds a collage of sounds where you can hear the Beatles' She Loves You and the singer crying. Following this there is a wonderful acoustic bridge that leads to the main part. It may be the weakest song on the album; which says nothing but prooves the true barbarity of the album we are talking about.
The end is electric with the immediate riff of Las habladurías del mundo, a marvel in which blues, hard rock and pop shake hands as they can only do with a compositional wizard like Spinetta. El Flaco doubles his voice with the guitar, with a sound halfway between Harrison and Santana, while Del Guercio and García's accompaniment is telepathic. The final phrase perfectly sums up the spirit of its creator: "No estoy atado a ningún sueño ya/ las habladurías del mundo no pueden atraparnos""(I'm not tied to any dream anymore/ the talk of the world can't trap us").
Artaud is not only the best album of Luis Alberto Spinetta's career, it is the best album in the history of Argentine rock and one of the best three or four in Spanish. Of course, we must not forget that this giant of Ibero-American rock has several masterpieces behind him, from the two albums by Almendra, the two previous ones by Pescado Rabioso or El jardín de los presentes by Invisible. However, there is no better starting point to get lost in his fascinating discography than this brilliant madness.