Changuemonium, Jessy Bulbo
Masare Records, Mexico
by Zé Garcia
The impish brilliance of the funk-cumbia-salsa of “Alma Traviesa" cannot be overstated. Back break horn sections fit for a Blaxploitation film, Bulbo’s idiosyncratic voice sounding like a submerged mermaid, cover art that has Jessy looking chola health goth, the religious fever of that keyboard organ. Where is Jessy Bulbo's head at these days? "Alma Traviesa" wasn’t the first single off Changuemonium, however. Somehow we missed the first cut, the bombshell merengue of "Cuando Rie”. The banda breakdown into that short-lived EDM buildup will literally make your eyes roll into the back of your head and keep going 360. I caught up with Jessy for some Behind The Music during her time in Chicago and let me tell you, "Cuando Rie" is the tragedy of DIY / indie cultural production. "Cuando Rie" was submitted for radio airplay consideration to great enthusiasm. Our corporate radio curators (read: overlords) wanted to play it on both Mexican & U.S. markets, they wanted Jessy to bleep out the word cabrón, and asked for a few thousand dollars to keep it on rotation for a single month. #Payola. #2015. The music industrial complex strikes again and “Cuando Rie” did not become 2015’s indie to radio crossover, to the detriment of every binational Que Buena listener out there. Radio listeners needed something of this caliber, something beyond the safety of today's monotony or the nostalgia of yesterday's hits. Radio needed "Cuando Rie".
The sad-melody driven “Anabel” has Jessy sounding more like Chava Flores than ever before. Jessy paints a portrait of a tropical morena who eats “cocos & bananas tiernas” and wants a "casita en la playa”. Jesse wants to be the chango that hides in the palm tree in Anabel's patio. Did we mention the song is written about Anabel from the Caribbean folk pop duo, Las Acevedo? “Asegun” is one of a few whimsical banda numbers on Changuemonium that are thematically reminiscent of the psychomagical imagery of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Santa Sangre”. "Asegun" is a dark revelation of the constantly crumbling and rebuilding human psyche: "Y el vacío existencial ¿Con qué se me llenará? ¿Y esta fea sensación de no ser lo que yo soy?” The music suddenly fades to black. Album highlight "Hasta Siempre” (formerly titled "Amor Sin Dueño") sounds like Banda in Toyland, the flair of the horns so Juan Gabriel. Tequilazos are in order. "Ay Ay Ay" makes use of guitars, frames male sexual aggression ("no me trates de visita conyugal") and in a colloquial naca kind of way declares, "Hombre, si yo soy re agradable".
“No Es Pa Tanto” is colossal and playful with a cumbia synth breakdown that sounds like The Classics. "Mándalo a la tienda por unas chelas..." the track begins, ascending towards a brainworm only Jessy could have created. "No Es Pa Tanto" isn't just anti-monogamy, it breaks down why monogamy is harmful to our being: our relationships should be romances, neither tribunals or cages with flowers. It reminds us that human nature is programmable, the vibrant dynamics of our potential selves can be siphoned into one dimensional, insipid beings. In this case, our joyless / unchill / soul-crushing culture is being manufactured by the (anti-woman, racist, classist) narratives of obedience circulated by telenovelas. A gracious chorus that sounds legendary, Jessy flirts with us on the bachata into cumbia hybrid of the crazysexycool “Romance”, originally titled "Romance Bonobo". The way Jessy enunciates words like "toma mi cintura / un encanto", the tropical vignette she paints; "Viernes por la noche / en la selva", the track is anthropomorphic story telling at its most seductive: "fuimos muy juntitos a bañarnos al rio / nos mareaba el néctar de un coco con ron", complete with the sounds of ocean side seagulls. Banda meets 4x4 pop stabs on "Sabes Que” and Jessy totally loses it. Again. She's issuing death threats, she's "rapping" with the "cúcara, mácara, títere, fue" (the Mexican version of eenie meanie miney mo)- she digresses- demands the use of fireworks, "échen cuetes! échen los cuetes!". The saccharine brilliance of album closer "Vuélvete" finds itself somewhere between Televisa pop & Angelo Badalamenti's work on Twin Peaks. Jessy sounds like el diablo con cara de angel: Thalia, the dramatic strings like they could accompany the voice of another demon, RBD's Anahi, but the track is good so it comes off as Paulina Rubio's best output in the 90s. The song is about falling in love but it is also a riddle about the occult message of the heart and Jessy's "latido salvaje".
It is Jessy’s shape shifting vitality that carries the hedonistic spirit of Changuemonium. Jessy infuses the bizarre pop spirit of the record with banda, cumbia, bachata, salsa, & funk and delivers one of the catchiest albums of the year, oscillating between the gaudy and the brilliant. There is not a single “punk” song on the album but this should surprise no one after 2010's Telememe. To continue selling Jessy Bulbo as Mexico's "punk riot grrrrl" is lethargic music journalism that does not encapsulate the fullness of her exhaustive sonic gymnastics. Jessy is simply too interested in seemingly everything else to ever be typecast into a single niche. In an era when the strange can be synonymous with sinister discomfort, Jessy Bulbo does "weird" by being earnest & ludic.