The Argentinian teacher, journalist and prolific author Walter Lezcano -author of novels, books of poetry and rock music- is in charge of giving us “A gift from the devil. Dos Minutos, Valentín Alsina and the reinvention of Argentine punk”, an energetic book halfway between biography, essay and chronicle, which tells us about the importance of the debut album of the punk band Dos Minutos and how “Valentín Alsina” is changed (re-founded) punk in Argentina, shifting the focus from the center to the periphery, becoming the cornerstone of the so-called “neighborhood rock”.
“We come from the south of the city, from a legendary neighborhood, tango and suburb; We come from a neighborhood, an industrial neighborhood. We have some bars with their typical drunks, and some stringers, asking for something to eat; popular neighborhood, Valentín Alsina”, reads the song “Valentín Alsina”, a song that opens the album of the same name and serves as a declaration of principle: right from the first verses, Dos Minutos told anyone who wanted to listen that they came from the suburbs – from Valentín Alsina, indeed – and that they were proud of it.
According to the author, “they invented neighborhood rock from punk (which crosses generations and different artistic fields transversely), because they gave artistic entity and sound value to a work that places the territory of origin as an essential articulator of creation . And that was an absolute novelty in these lands. Suddenly, the neighborhood and where you came from mattered.
The entire album, as a whole, is consistent with Lezcano’s words. The songs are portraits, postcards of neighborhood life, everyday situations that weren’t intended to imitate the typical and stereotyped speeches of political punk, but to focus on daily life in the most displaced sectors of an Argentina that was experiencing a fierce period of implementation of neoliberal policies at the hands of President Carlos Menem.
We have, for example, “Suicidal Love”, the story of a girl who commits suicide in a neighborhood square due to the pain caused by the death of her boyfriend in the Malvinas war; “Street fight” is a painting of a common situation in the Valentín Alsina neighborhood, a fight between two rival gangs; and the undisputed classic “Ya no sos igual”, which tells us about a friend of the neighborhood and the court who goes over to the rival side, the federal police.
Neighborhood texts, typical of the identity of Valentín Alsina, who, becoming a sales and exhibition phenomenon, reconfigured the traditional codes of Argentine popular music, accustomed to ignoring the periphery or, at best, to narrate it from above, from the vertical.
Lezcano points out that “2 Minutos made the aesthetic decision not to pay homage to a certain lineage that seemed to exist in the composition of what the genre was. He didn’t mind approaching Spinetta, Charly or Fito. That holy trinity wasn’t their way, but they put their own together. They used words to tell their reality and represent what they lived. ‘Buchón’, ‘outburst’, ‘barricade’ and a whole lexical field that was below what was usual for us. It was revolutionary, but we didn’t realize it.”
But the book isn’t just a musical analysis of the album. “A gift from the devil” offers us a sort of genealogy of Argentinian punk, from the arrival of the first records in the country and the first bands – which although very important and influential, seem to respond more to consolidated models of what punk should be and they put their discursive starting point from the center – until they reached the zero point of the re-foundation of Trans-Andean punk: “Valentín Alsina”.
He also tells us what came next – the commercial success and the media phenomenon – and explains how it was possible for a band that positioned itself narratively from the suburbs to enter the radio and television charts, fill concerts, appear on MTV, sell thousands of copies and founding a new musical tradition in Argentina, with the word emitted from the margin, the neighborhood, in a long journey that reaches the cumbia villera, presented by Lezcano as a ramification of the spirit of “Valentín Alsina”.
The book – published in Argentina by Vademécum and which today arrives in Chile through the Santiago-Ander publishing house – alternates Lezcano’s careful pen with interviews in Moscow and El Indio, founding musicians of the Dos Minutos, who have the task of providing us with information on the history of the band, how they met, how they formed, the relationship they had with the neighborhood and how they created the classics that make up the album; There are also chapters narrated by Matías Schneer, former manager of the group, and the writer Mariana Enríquez, among other people.
Lezcano also provides us with a series of bibliographic and discographic data that show us a complete picture of the band, its context and the commercial, cultural and musical scope of the album “Valentín Alsina”.
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