Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Crossover acts have almost always released their Spanish-language albums on Latin labels and their English-language albums on mainstream labels. But Mexican band Café Tacuba's "Cuatro Caminos" broke the mold with its July 8 release on Geffen.
It is the first all-Spanish album on that label. It is also the first time in recent memory that a Spanish rock album has been released on a mainstream label that does not have a Latin department.
Whether any Latin rock band can truly make it on a non-Latin label is a big question. But with the career profile that Tacuba has, the band has a better chance than most.
"More and more kids will find out about this band because they're a cool, hip rock band," says Fred Croshal, head of marketing for Geffen Records. "There are people that don't speak a word of Spanish that have embraced this band."
Tacuba keyboardist/vocalist Emmanuel del Real has his own theory about the development.
"I don't know if it has to do with our irrationality," he jokes. "But our irrationality or intelligence has kept us here 14 years, and we're still making music.
"It was interesting to have a North American company take so much interest in us," he adds. "It's indicative of the [wider] interest in our music."
Tacuba, one of the most innovative bands in Latin rock, is also one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed.
Its last studio album, 1999's double-CD "Revés/Yo Soy" won a Grammy Award, even though it was a dense recording that did not sell anywhere near as well as previous albums.
"Revés" also marked the end of Tacuba's longtime contract with Warner. Several labels approached the band, but it made the unusual move of signing with MCA in the U.S. (through restructuring, the band is now on Geffen) and Universal Music Mexico in its native country.
On its first week of release, "Cuatro" -- which was initially shipped with the MCA logo but will eventually carry the Geffen logo -- sold slightly upwards of 3,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
It debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart, a good -- if not remarkable -- showing for a Latin rock album. Now in its third week of release, it is No. 23.
Touring will play a major role in upcoming promotion of the set. The band is touring alone Aug. 31-Sept. 24, including five dates in Puerto Rico.
The music's devotees believe that Latin rock is, first and foremost, rock; therefore, they insist, language doesn't matter.
But aside from a handful of exceptions, mainstream radio and TV outlets rarely play the music, even though mainstream press coverage tends to be more extensive than for any other Latin music.
And although breaking a Latin rock act in the U.S. is a daunting task, Tacuba, band members say they want the opportunity to expand their fan base. "Especially because, since we were kids, we listened to music in English and never questioned it," del Real says.
Excerpted from the Aug. 2, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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