On my first listen I didn’t like it, and I didn’t really get it, It sounded like the same old and outdated Fito Paez from his 90s glory days. But I gave it a second listen, and then it grew on me. I tend to be very critical of musicians/bands who don’t take chances, who play it safe. Releasing albums that sound and feel the same as their previous albums or their older work. It just feels like they refuse to explore new sounds or don’t have anything new to express musically—and that is what I first thought when I first listened to La Conquista del Espacio.
But then, on my second listen, I paid closer attention to the lyrics and begun to notice just how much personal reflection and socially relevant issues are expressed on most of this nine-track album. There are things on this record that work and some things that I can do without. For example; there are way too many Argentinian slangs and regional issues mentioned throughout this album, which I feel is an issue when trying to connect with audiences outside of Argentina. This has been the Achilles heel for rock en Español artists coming out of Argentina for at least the last 10-15 years. Look, although those issues are important—I feel that an International superstar like Fito Páez can exercise tremendous influence all over the Spanish speaking world with his music. It is also important to note that music has an enormous role to play in creating change and inspiring activism, which is why I take issue with parts of this album.
La Conquista del Espacio was produced by Gustavo Porner, who also produced Calamaro’s Cargar La Suerte—which explains why I had similar issues with both albums. The return of Guillermo Vadalá adds to the importance of this record. Vadalá collaborated previously with Fito on nine albums, most notably on the classic album “El Amor Después del Amor” (1992). The highly accomplished drummer Abraham ‘abe’ Laboriel jr also joins this album—Abe has been playing drums with Paul McCartney’s band since 2001 and has worked with Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and Shakira to name a few. Juanes also makes a quick cameo.
Although short and fast, with just nine tracks and under 37 minutes of playing time, La Conquista del Espacio is a solid, well-made album that grows on you pretty quickly. There are a couple of tracks that are destined to become classics, and Maelstrom is my new Fito Paez favorite song. Here is my take:
- La Conquista del Espacio: Opening track sounds like classic Fito Paez, making a mission statement on what this album is all about; Love and freedom—is the thesis of not just this song but the whole album. Juanes and Maria Campos lend their vocals here.
- Resucitar: This track was the first promotional single. It’s all about the contradictions of our human condition.
- Las Cosas Que Me Hacen Bien: A quote from the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu opens this socially conscious track. The police state, the current social and cultural issues plaguing society are expressed here using examples of modern life and trends.
- La Canción de las Bestias: Now, this is one of my favorite tracks on this album. It sounds raw and reflective. Fito bears his soul while asking deep questions about our humanity.
- Gente en la Calle (feat. Lali): A jazzy love letter to Buenos Aires. Beautiful melody, thoughtful social lyrics. Lali Espósito lends her vocals here.
- Ey, You (feat. Mala Mama): My least favorite track, and allthough the lyrics have some social relevance, still, the musical choices do not work for me. We get some funk, rock, cumbia, and some English and Italian phrases (“Fucking bastard-Vaffanculo”). The Argentinian cumbia band Mala Fama and it’s lead vocalist Hernan Coronel add an unnecessary ingredient. I felt like this song could have worked without the cumbia element.
- Nadie es Nadie: Fito is reaching far here, with lyrics that attempt to appeal to a more inclusive audience, while balancing his classic style of rock. Forgettable track.
- Maelstrom: Now here we have the highest mark on this album and my new favorite Fito Paez song. The songwriting and melody are excellent; it is Fito at his best. Everything about this song works. It elevates this album to new heights.
- Todo Se Olvida: This final track is a declaration of where he stands after all these years in music and an icon of rock en Español. A solid way to end this remarkable album.
LA CONQUISTA DEL ESPACIO (Sony Music, 2020)