A lot has changed since Ely Guerra released her last LP of new material (2004’s Sweet & Sour, Hot y Spicy). For Ms. Guerra, there was the large increase in profile from that album’s success quickly followed by label political hell, with 2007’s Teatro Metropolitan and a couple of solid duets with the likes of Juanes, Bunbury, and, um, Jared Leto whetting her fan base’s appetite for awhile. For the world, well, we got another four years of Dubya, three new Shakira albums (one of which was good!), Chelsea and Barcelona stealing all of my favorite soccer players in an effort to piss me off royally, Club Fonograma providing an outlet for Latino kids to point out how great our music is to those who chose French class over Spanish 101, a worldwide financial collapse (which I can assure you was not Shakira’s fault), “My President is black, my Lambo is blue, and I’ll be Goddamned if my rims ain’t too,” Sonia Sotomayor, and Avatar (which is the new Star Wars, except with shittier toys).
Considering the turmoil and changes that have occurred in the past 5+ years, it’s nice to see that Hombre Invisible doesn’t deconstruct everything that’s brought Ely Guerra to her high position of stature. Not to say that she’s repeating her greatest hits—it’s safe to say that anyone expecting another Lotofire is going to extremely disappointed. Hombre Invisible is an album filled with hushes and quiet breaths, vague notes and short blasts of noise. This description lends itself quite nicely to album opener “Lontano,” with its many keyboard flourishes and pounding percussion, while its guitars lay in the grass until allowed to escape during the choruses. It’s a slice of classic Ely Guerra—sensual and patient, yet understated. This is followed by the twin pieces of awesomeness that are “Messy” and “Stranger.” The former is another example of the classic Guerra aesthetic—heavy keyboards, jumping guitar riffs, and confident, swaggering vocals; the latter is an indie rock torch burner, alternating between My Bloody Valentine and Sade—it’s the sexiest damn shoegaze that you’ll hear this year.
It’s when we get to the next track, “Colmena” when the album’s fire begins to dim. In fact, the next four numbers could all be characterized the same way: mid-tempo, equal parts sensual and sweet, yet pretty much forgettable by song’s end. Things finally perk up on “You Love Me.” While its English lyrics aren’t anything special, after obsessing over Hu Hu Hu for the last 8 months, it puts into perspective how shockingly good Guerra’s accent is. Also, her cooing “you can’t resist my pretty mouth” definitely put some milk in my Cheerios. Nice backbeat too, even if this may ride the border between alternative and MOR too much for your liking. “Antes de Septiembre” may be the hidden gem on the album. With a fluid, almost invisible melody (and a neat little guitar line), the bridge and chorus play the musical vulnerability to its biggest impact. The whole song is a nice reminder that Ely Guerra provided the sexiest verbal bitch-slaps of the last decade that weren’t sung by R. Kelly. The closing track, “La Habitacion,” is a mood piece which ends with minutes of various piano notes, and is easily skippable.
This is a wildly uneven record, without any amazing peaks or destructive valleys. On first listen, it may even sound a bit average, an odd adjective when it comes to Ely Guerra. But perhaps that’s just what happens when you have such a long period between albums; you need to just make something, and then you can get back to stirring your creative abilities. Overall, Hombre Invisible may not be the masterpiece that we hoped that Guerra spent the past 5 years making, but it’s a worthy addition to her quality catalogue.