In 2005 I went to Texas. The reasons why don’t really matter, but I was there. One night I got separated from the friend I went with. I think he was chasing some girl he had no chance with. I went for a wander, had a delightful Mexican dinner and then another mooch about town. During dinner I’d overheard about a bar that sounded interesting. After some walking, and much direction asking, I found out. I couldn’t tell you the name of it now, nor what it was really like, but it was dank and they played punk. Band after band played, all of them immediately forgettable. But one sticks in the memory. They were a four piece semi-acoustic Mexican punk band. After they finished I tried to find my mate, as we were sharing a taxi back to the hotel.
Fast forward to 2019. Mexican acoustic punk duo Pancho Villa’s Skull have released their second album Gentefication. While Pancho have nothing to do with the band I saw that night, they inhabit the same space and deliver the same energy, if a bit less lairy and drenched in feedback. Like their self-titled debut Gentefication is another collection of songs that inhabit that space between the traditions of Mariachi and punk.
‘El Canalla’ sounds a bit like the interlude music in Flight of the Conchords, and like that piece of music it is catchy as and gets lodged in your brain. ‘Sin Accion’ is more mournful and the strings really add an emotional content that firstly drags you in and secondly pulls at your heart strings.
The strongest song on the album is ‘Respondeme’. It keeps features melodic chugging guitars and a tight rhythm, but lyrically it asks questions about America’s problems with immigration, most notably the Mexican people. Lyrics like “What is about my culture that scares you?” and “Why are you so afraid?” But instead of screaming these questions Pancho ask them with delicate poise. And this is what make it such a fascinating listen. It is angry, but not restrained, knowing that getting angry doesn’t help when searching for resolution.
Gentefication is an album filled of rich melodies and rhythms. Tino Ybarra’s guitar playing is direct, but not overpowering and his vocals are gently lilting at times and gently visceral at others, but its Rolando Ybarra’s percussion that really hangs the album together. At times it appears he is just keeping time, but others he’s the crux of the song, without suppressing what the song needs.