Seven Mexicans playing Morrissey songs in Spanish. Morrissey’s popularity in Mexico, which surfaced early in his solo career, is well understood by his faithful, and this band has had some pretty gushing reviews in their short life.
But other than a smattering of ebullient Spanish speakers towards the front, one has to be pretty confident that most of the turnout at the Enmore did not know quite what to expect. What they got was an always enjoyable, very often joyous hour of songs they will all have known – but never like this.
The band’s website suggests various incarnations of the group, who played their first gig in Mexico City just nine months ago. Mexrrissey are now settled and made up of established Mexican musicians, led by Camino Lara, the sole English speaker and MC. They share singing duties and swap instruments. Every song is infused with – or rather in the most part has had infused – a Latin feel, and no song is exactly imitated. Often it took a few bars for their identity to emerge. But from the first notes of El Primero del Gang (First of The Gang To Die), this was an audience ready to be taken.
The versions smartly managed to honour the songs and their intent; this isn’t exactly Nouvelle Vague and it’s certainly not the Mike Flowers Pops. So the great guitar peel of How Soon is Now?, played on this very stage by its creator Johnny Marr in July last year, is played by Alex Gonzalez’s trumpet and yet still maintains a lot of its deep Mancunian tension.
On the other hand, the bass/guitar duo of Chetes Zurdok and Jay de la Cueva flunk out of the guitar solo on Bigmouth Strikes Again, leaving it less successfully to Lara and co-keyboardist Ceci Bastida to keep the song rolling. But consistently they manage to release the mostly submerged dance feel of these beautiful tunes. I wonder what their version of Barbarism Begins at Home, the closest the Smiths ever got to that, would sound like; possibly a little too close for their comfort. But without overstating it, De la Cueva in particular evokes some of the nascent funk of Radiohead’s cover of The Headmaster Ritual.
Mexrrissey are releasing an album, No Manchester, in a few weeks, and its opener, International Playgirl (The Last of the Famous International Playboys), is already around, and wonderfully delivered by Bastida here. Twice, in fact –including the apparently patched–together encore – Bastida herself suggesting they don’t have enough songs yet. If she didn’t quite know where to look as she took centre stage, nor did some of those towards the front of the audience.
Morrissey would doubtless approve of the band uniform of black T-shirt and trimmed mariachi-inspired trousers. The visual backdrops often alternated pictures of dilapidated Manchester with similar in Mexico – the very opposite of juxtaposed.
Personal favourites: the simple beauty of the two-handed version of Morrissey’s actual song called Mexico; and the call and response by Zurdok on Ask. Then, as very often, most of the audience sang back an indistinct Anglo-Spanish-nonsense gurgle roughly approximating what they thought the translation was, like something out of Minions.
This article was written by Will Woodward, for theguardian.com on Sunday 24th January 2016 04.11 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010