Cinco Estrellas (Astroboy) – Uruguayan Music

by Emilio Pérez Miguel on December 18, 2009

"Cinco Estrellas" Was Astroboy's Debut EP

"Cinco Estrellas" Was Astroboy's Debut EP

The emergence of a band like Astroboy in the Uruguayan market was understandable. Uruguay’s endemic genres like Tango, Murga, and Candombe have always held little sway over the tastes of youth, whereas popular bands like La Vela Puerca or No Te Va Gustar still fail to strike a chord with listeners weaned on British and American music. Astroboy attempted to bridge that gap with the release of their debut album, a seven-song EP entitled “Cinco Estrellas” [Five Stars]. The EP was issued in 2003.

Verily, they sing in English, and their approach differs from traditional Uruguayan Rock, but problems abound. First of all, they may sing in English, but they do not compose songs in English. It is palpable that the words are devised in Spanish and then translated into English, with little regard for the nuances of each language. This is denoted by the rhymes they resort to (when they do rhyme), and by the rhyme schemes in use – these never move beyond the basic ABCB. And when they do try (as in “Did I Tell You?”), they wind up coupling words like “drowning” with “laughing”. And the lyrics themselves are a drawback, as they are plagued by grammar and syntax problems (I check my meanings/And all my kinds are ways/ That I don’t mind/Yeah!).

Moreover, a tendency to take the easy way out is already pronounced here; some compositions are made up of just one verse and one chorus reiterated throughout the whole song, as in “Fácil” [Easy] and the closing “Time Has Passed” (a bonus track, and the weakest song on offer). Some (minor) confusions between British and American English are also in evidence. But the most egregious aspect is the music itself, wholly derivative of Britpop bands (most notably Oasis). There is a difference between being inspired by something and imitating something; it is a thin line, but Astroboy crosses it gratuitously. From Oasis they also take the attitude and general outlook (especially singer Martín Rivero, who hero-worships Liam Gallagher).

Elsewhere, there is an unwarranted appropriation of The Jam’s “Town Called Malice” for the opening lines of “Brainwashed”, and more than echoes of The Sex Pistols in the (suitably titled) “Iggy Pop”. If anything partially redeems the record it is the infectious level of energy, which drives along otherwise humdrum tunes like “Brainwashed” or “Did I Tell You?”. Besides, we must not forget that the alluring “Mi Reserva” [My Reserve] is part of this collection. (Alongside “Fácil”, it is the only composition in Spanish.) “Mi Reserva” was the obvious choice for a single, with its nice drum figure and exciting horns punctuating the way. The lyrics are even reasonable. The song ends segueing into “Yellow Submarine” and (for once) it does not sound forced –  it is the most charming moment to be found on this disc.

It is clear that with “Cinco Estrellas” Astroboy intended to cause a commotion in the music scene. But in order to do something like that, more than energy and attitude is required. You need originality, in the sense of commitment and imagination. Hiding faults beneath a veneer of arrogance could never do.

The albums that were to follow not only reprised the problems found in “Cinco Estrellas” – rather, the negative aspects were cubed. In hindsight, I wonder if their music could ever have stood as a vital creation, instead of a mere shadow of a shadow. The answer is a negative one. They didn’t really care about making music. All that mattered was showing off and slurring “We are much better than ‘La Vela Puerca’ and ‘No Te Va Gustar’”. And they were so concerned about being “cool” that every single other band in the country surpassed them both artistically and musically. The history of Astroboy has nothing to do with a missed chance. They never had a chance to begin with.

Rating: 5.5/10

{ 3 trackbacks }

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