After three long years, Latin America’s best rock band has finally released a new record–an EP containing four covers of tunes by the defunct underground Chilean rock band Los Tres. That’s hardly what Cafe Tacuba’s fans have been waiting for, but they should know by now how slow the Mexico City quartet is to record: prior to the epic double CD Reves/Yo soy (Warner Brothers, 1999) the band’s last original material dates back to 1994, when they released the classic Re. The band admits that the new Vale callampa, its MCA debut, is largely a device to keep its name in circulation until a new album is released next spring. But this disc is no throwaway–these catchy tunes demonstrate how shameful it is that the four albums Los Tres released in the 90s are virtually impossible to find in this country. Cafe Tacuba made its reputation by mixing experimental pop and alt rock with regional Mexican styles; along the way they’ve refused to cater to the Anglo world, singing exclusively in Spanish. But the quartet–bassist Quique Rangel, guitarist Joselo Rangel, keyboardist/rhythm programmer Emmanuel DeReal, and singer Ruben Albarran, who changes his moniker for every release and goes by the name Rita Cantalagua on the EP–plays it relatively straight on Vale callampa: the structures of these beautifully moody songs are largely left intact, tweaked only slightly by Albarran’s eccentric, exaggerated delivery and some abstract electronic touches. In October Los Tres singer Alvaro Enriquez joined the band to perform the gorgeous ballad “Olor a Gas” on MTV’s Latin Video Music Awards, and Albarran looked like he was living out a fantasy, prancing around in a wrestling mask with a small red Mohawk. I hope that for these rare shows–two of only four U.S. dates this year–the band will debut some new material from its ongoing sessions, which have been helmed by producers such as longtime collaborator Gustavo Santaolalla, Dan the Automator, and Mercury Rev’s Dave Fridmann. Tuesday and Wednesday, November 26 and 27, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gonzalo Morales.