It’s a little known fact, but it’s absolutely true. H.G Wells (one of the founding fathers of science fiction) did spend some time in Uruguay. He was in the country during the summer of 1879 – 1880, in the seaside town of La Pedrera. Accounts of his stay there are unanimous, if only because the population of La Pedrera back then consisted only of 8 people, 3 dogs and 1 dalek.
We reportedly know that Wells used to wake at 7 in the morning every single day, walk through the beach until dusk and then come back to his little cabin. He did that the whole summer.
Then, on the final day of his stay there he clenched his fist, pointed it to the balmy sky and screamed at the top of his lungs, “SHIT, ISN’T EVER ANYTHING TO DO IN THIS COUNTRY???”.
He then had a kind of mystic experience. It is said he saw something blazing in the sky. If he had been Caetano Veloso he would have written the lyric that goes “and my eyes/go looking for flying saucers in the sky”. Instead, he dreamed up the story of the Martians landing on Earth that you can read on his seminal work “The War Of The Worlds” (1898). He turned the joyous dunes of La Pedrera into Horsell Common, and he came with a killer virus that sent the poor old Martians to kingdom come simply because he caught some scorching disease while he was in Uruguay, and he had to go to the toilet six times per day for three years afterwards.
This history is little-known because there has always been a kind of multinational conspiracy to keep Uruguay off fictionalized works. Powers too evil and too daunting collude to keep the effervescent South American country from raising its head in the world of literature.
And in a certain sense, some things have remained the same in Uruguay ever since Wells paid us that veiled visit. There’s still people who scream at the sky out of sheer boredom, and lament their lack of prospects. They vent their frustration in different ways. Some play soccer and marry Argentinean models, some have music blogs where they write about anything that comes into their minds, and some others pick up their guitars and play good old rock and roll, paying a direct homage to the best British and American music that ever existed.
The guys who make up Casablancas do that. I don’t know whether they do it because they have always felt some kind of divine inspiration to create music, or because they tried to become soccer players and score some Argentinean models in the process and failed.
I suppose that doesn’t matter in light of the fine music they make. The guys know their British albums like I know how to write crazy-arsed introductions for reviews, and they draw inspiration from classis acts like The Who and The Sex Pistols as much as they look up to contemporary performers such as The Strokes and The Kooks (a band that I seriously dislike, and that I only remember because they have a crappier name than the Goo Goo Dolls).
The band became famous in Uruguay on strength of their participation on the fabled Pepsi Bandplugged talent show. They made it into the 10 finalists, and you can listen to the two songs that they played there on their MySpace profile. They are “Liverpool” and “0800 Casablancas”, and they are similar in terms of execution – jagged guitars and vocals over indefatigable rhythms, and lyrics that are a bit self-aggrandizing at times but which are what those who feel weighed down by boredom need in order to begin kicking up a storm.
It’s obviously too early to tell what kind of impact a band like Casablancas can have in the larger scheme of things. They clearly take their music seriously, and they have the verve for encouraging listeners to think outside of the box. That’s what I’m treasuring at the end of the day, and what I’ll come back to until the guys release some new recordings.
And I finally got a chance to use a picture of a Tripod on a review. Boy, I’ve always loved those things. Thanks, Casablancas!
This is Casablancas’s MySpace profile.