A band that got me quite intrigued, Retrocedonia is more pop than rock, but it can rock far more than your conventional poppy outfit. More than anything, it is a band whose sound melds old and new Uruguayan traditions in a very idiosyncratic way – they clearly know what has come and gone before and they make sure indicators are dropped all over the place, but not in a way that would devaluate what they are actually doing.
That is something tricky to pull off – to many younger listeners, the musical history of the country is often anything but cool or hip. They won’t necessarily listen to someone who plays an accordion and sings about the Mama Vieja (one of the most representative protagonists of Uruguayan Candombe) as this band does.
I think that one of their clearest debts is paid to Niquel, the legendary outfit founded by Jorge Nasser and Pablo Faragó. Niquel fused many styles together, and showcased how those genres could be accommodated to exemplify our own identity. This band does that as well – psychodelia, pop and rock become bedfellows of tango. And I can tell you that they have some sweet dreams together.
Retrocedonia’s lyrics come with endless references to pop culture – both Uruguayan and worldwide. Characters like the Mama Vieja share adjacent spaces with someone like MacGyver. In each and every case, the character is situated in a context that removes the associations anybody makes when their names are mentioned, as if the band were making a point that tags are not necessarily pointless but certainly quite volatile – we might be who we are, but that depends on what we do, right when we do it. It makes me think of what Ortega y Gasset (a Spanish philosopher) once said: “I am me, and my circumstance”.
Thus, the Mama Vieja is seen as a person who leads an actual life, who faces joy and loss in equal measures – sometimes, in completely intermingled ways. MacGyver is seen through Uruguayan eyes, and the situations that he faces and the (whimsical) results of his actions make one see the character as the true fabrication he was. One can but wonder, “If the MacGyver we accepted all this time was nothing but the way a different culture articulated the world, how does that culture see us? And how does it see the world on the whole?”.
I find all that quite appealing, because one does get tired of these “bands with attitude” that spit on the country, and on everything that went before. Nobody would say (or even think) that Retrocedonia will go down as a band that wrote the richest page in the book detailing the musical history of the country. But it would be the kind of page that shows the link between what has come before and what has come to be. And that is the kind of page that many people like to bookmark, in the end.
Check out Retrocedonia’s MySpace profile here.