MCA Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Is the world ready for Puerto Rican hard rock?

Why not? In a genre that too often has stagnated due to a lack of fresh ideas, new blood is needed - and why shouldn't it come from other cultures?

Into this picture steps Puya, a Puerto Rican-American band who often remind me of Rage Against The Machine meeting rapper Gerardo in a dark alley. Their debut effort Fundamental features some great moments, but it also shows the pitfalls that hit any band who dare to be trailblazers.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band - vocalist Sergio Curbelo, guitarist Ramon Ortiz, bassist Harold Hopkins and drummer Eduardo Paniagua - merge different cultures and musical styles into their own mix. Changing languages from Spanish to English mid-stream isn't uncommon (hence the comparison to Gerardo), and you don't need to speak Spanish to understand the power behind some of the words. (Translations are provided in the liner notes, but they're so poorly laid out that it's damned near impossible to follow them, especially while listening to the music.)

Being one of the first hardcore Spanglish bands is daunting enough for Puya - but there is musical uncertainty on Fundamental. Often, it doesn't seem like the band knows which direction they want to take their music. Should they sound like Rage Against The Machine? Should they sound like a hip-hop band? Should they throw elements of their Hispanic heritage into the music? Or should they try to do everything at once?

Unfortunately, Puya tries to be everything to every side of themselves on Fundamental - bad move, because it turns out to be the musical equivalent of taking a sportscar, revving it up to 100, then throwing it in reverse.

Mixing Spanish and English is not the issue here; tracks like "Oasis," "Remora" and the title cut all show that such a mix works, and works well. It's that I can be listening to Fundamental and getting into a good Rage-like vibe, only to have things come to a screeching halt, and to have a more hip-hop like beat come into the picture ("Whatever").

If Puya is guilty of anything, it's that they try to do too much too soon on Fundamental. Had they settled on one main musical style, then tried to work in an occasional flavor, the album would have worked better. But overambition gets the better of the band on Fundamental, leaving some wonderful tracks to get overrun by the tidal wave.

I have no doubts that Puya have a killer album in their catalog. Unfortunately, Fundamental isn't it - but it's a start.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.