EMI Music, Mexico
by Carlos Reyes
Art is always conflict or in conflict. Unfortunately for Zoé, conflict (as an artistic choice and characteristic of beauty) has become a concept and not a purpose. Their latest record, Programaton, confirms they’ve become responders to regularity and sees them subscribing to linear narrative. There’s little construction or deconstruction here, and, when your music mainly focuses on the progressive relationship between time and space, the dissemination of your discourse is in big trouble. Sure, there are moments of lyrical urgency and digital distortion to be found here, but they all sit in the superimposed and very obvious comfort zone that ultimately comes to delineate the album.
Zoé’s current status as Mexico’s most critically divisive band is conflict enough some may say, but that’s an absorbed comfort all on its own. Instead, I’m pointing the finger to the album’s lazy articulation with spatial conflict, tempo conflict, and form conflict. Opening and promotional track “10 A.M.” is an easy-listening offering that never experiences any sort of melodic angst nor aspires to negotiate with space. Dissolving song structure so extremely and with so little regard is a way of absolute thinking, and that amounts to a compositional emptiness that distracts but never attracts. Without conflict there is no creation, and, if the material doesn’t challenge the listener, there’s only so much provisional power to sustain your themes.
Singles “10 A.M” and “Camara Lenta” aren’t necessarily flawed on their own (the hooks are actually pretty easy to grab on to) but, as part of the bigger picture, they are the outcome of Zoé favoring an obvious (concrete) narrative over a submerged (abstract) conception. Even if the band was aiming at sounding effortless, Programaton’s biggest deficiency is in its lack of excitement. There’s little to no fragmentation across the album, no introspective gestures or towering attractions (of any nature), no assaulting of the senses. Zoé patches those plot holes with chunks of melodrama (“Arrullo de Estrellas,” “Game Over Shangai”) that, although occasionally whimsical, they seem to be part of the very same escapism offered by Zoé in their last couple of albums.
There’s a moment in the intro of “Dos Mil Trece” where the band seemed to be pretty close to recruiting the reggaeton beat as part of their arsenal. Sadly, it was only my hopeful thirst for some excitement. More than a rock and roll album, Programaton is a collection of templates designed to fit Zoé’s linear and metaphorically weak lexicon. In the most head-scratching line of the album, Zoé mentions Pedro Infante with no emotional tissue to sustain the reference. This is only one of many unwise instances blinded by the band’s ultra sentimental regression, one that has inevitably turned passive populist and of minor sensible appeal.