Manos de Topo & Tarántula
Sones/Producciones Doradas, Spain
by Carlos Reyes
Past CF reviews of Manos de Topo and Tarántula described both bands as attention-getters, dramatic fetishists, and mind-numbing extremists of the Spaniard idiosyncratic. Furthermore, they were the subjects of our own intricacy of trying to figure out the line that divides dramatic novelty and artistic virtue. Well, they don’t make it any easier for us on the unsuspected, and overall chilling 12’’ split, Momento Único. Together, they've made the most exotic creature.
In a joint venture with their respective labels, Sones and Producciones Doradas, the four-track album (with a run of only 500 copies) brings the best and worst out of two bands that level music bravura with their over-the-top personalities. With only two tracks per side, there's not much room for the bands to elaborate, but they give it a try. On one side, we get Manos de Topo sowing sounds as whimsical as those tailored bouquets by Natalia Lafourcade or Sufjan Stevens, and a vocal execution as theatrical as Jason Segel’s Dracula puppet rock opera in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. On the other, we have the even more divisive Tarántula, who, despite being marinated in the juices of suburb rock and roll, handle their histrionics with melodic diffidence. The odds are clearly against them, but Momento Único is a showcase of well-executed ideas that will threaten to expand your taste through that feeling called charm and that other thing called curiosity.
The album’s press release explains the band’s encounter as the coming together of two of Spain’s most singular acts, and it claims they share “a spiritual zeitgeist.” I’m not sure any of the two capture the feel of the moment, but they’re excellent at romanticizing it. In this celebration, each band brings a superb song paired with artistically flat fillers. Let’s focus on the better half. Manos de Topo’s “Culo de Cristal” is a trip back to their 2007 debut Ortopedias Bonitas, an album where Manos de Topo seemed like the dysfunctional and oversensitive cousin of Shakira. (Don’t believe me? Go back to “Es Feo” and see for yourself.) This is a transitional piece for the band, the sort of anti-single that’s so superbly orchestrated that it becomes a luxury. Tarántula is far more interesting with the lyrically profound “Te han visto Aislada," where the band gets to sound like Morrissey AND Band of Horses. While flawed and precarious, Momento Único is, indeed, unique. There’s real emotional attachment between both sides of the split, and that’s good parenting. Also, fantastic artwork.