Punk rock raises fists and voices against dubious rule. With each passing, befuddling day of this current American governance, with every new, outlandish Tweet authored by its chief of state, there’s a response roiling up from punk’s current ranks. Over the weekend, there was a two-day Punk Against Trump festival in southern California. It featured old school agitators like TSOL, but also hosted newer acts like Rats in the Wall. That band and other rising stars, like All Torn Up! and War on Women, are doing their damndest to make political punk a threat again.
When the threat seems global (last week’s G7 events, withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, repeated boasting of nuclear capabilities,…take your pick from these and others) the musical response is global, too. After his attempted emasculation of Canada’s Justin Trudeau, might we expect some new anti-Trump punk in French? China’s Demerit is on tour in the states, surreptitiously calling for revolt with anti-authoritarian paeans like “Barefaced Lies and Bullshit Peace,” from its new album. But maybe, of all these put-upon global communities, the world’s Latin American countries might truly feel the need to rage against the U.S. machine in light of recent trade and immigration policies devised by Trump.
We wondered, if the Spanish-speaking world was going to punk against Trump, what would be the best anthems for that movement? We asked a local expert, Barty Rodriguez, guitarist for The Real McCoys. His Uruguayan heritage and deep knowledge of the music made him the first go-to on the matter. Rodriguez was only too happy to help; after all, his own band’s latest album, Barfly, features the track “Troubled Waters,” which is a brisk, terse commentary on (and derision of) the American president. The track uses Trump’s own sound bytes to ridicule him.
Rodriguez and the band are on tour currently, hitting cities in states like Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Georgia. So, he delivered his top 10 punk songs en español from the back of a tour van somewhere along Interstate 70. He gave us a brief commentary on each choice, but says the music speaks for itself. Even if the language is a barrier or the songs are older, he notes, the fury of the tracks seems more timely and universal than ever.
La Polla Records, "Ellos Dicen Mierda"
"Fathers and pioneers of everything punk in Spanish, from Spain," Rodriguez says of the longtime act from the Basque Autonomous Community. "Very anti-system and especially anti-America."
La Chancha Francisca, "Algo Nos Está Saliendo Mal"
"My personal favorite band ever - spicy, edgy, ironic lyrics. Excellence (from) Uruguay."
Feos, "Feo Punk Rock"
Another Uruguayan act instrumental to Rodriguez's delve into the genre, he says this track is "from the Punk Rock Espinoza" wave.
2 Minutos, "Ya No Sos Igual"
"Argentinean pioneers, been around for 30+ years," Rodriguez says. "Co-creators of the 'punk rock cabeza.'"
Sumo, "Mejor No Hablar De Ciertas Cosas"
Rodriguez said Sumo's front man, Luca Prodan, was an "Italian immigrant who ran away from heroin in Italy just to become addicted to gin in South America." The influential Argentinian act is credited with introducing British post-punk to the country's music scene.
Mano Negra, "Señor Matanza"
Fronted by one-time busker turned global superstar Manu Chao, "La Mano" impressively blended styles and languages (even a hit in Arabic!) for their punk-tinged worldbeat. "Influencers of everything ska punk mix, originally from France with songs in a variety of languages. Gogol Bordello wouldn't exist without 'em," Rodriguez says.
Molotov, "Que No Te Haga Bobo Jacobo"
Straight outta "Mexico, with a Texan drummer, they mix English and Spanish for a pretty cool, humoristic rap-rock-punk mix that's iconic in Latin America," Rodriguez shared. The song is Molotov's skewering of a TV journalist who was a notorious apologist for a corrupt government. Sean Hannity, anyone?
Fun People, "Runaway"
Yes, you are hearing some English words sung on this track. Mixing English and Spanish in their songs was sort of a staple for this Argentinian hardcore act from the '90s. They were "pioneers of D.I.Y. in South America, always been independent," Rodriguez noted. "The singer continued playing as Boom Boom Kid and I played with them in Houston with my old hardcore band."
Los Prisioneros, "Latinoamérica Es Un Pueblo Al Sur De Estados Unidos"
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"Post dictatorship punk, from Chile, late '80s," said Rodriguez of this act from Santiago, Chile, considered a formative band for those to follow their "question authority" blueprint. Their songs were anthems for the movement to displace human rights violator and dictator Augusto Pinochet from power.
La Tabaré, "Las Raices Desteñidas"
Founded in 1985 in Montevideo, La Tabaré is "post dictatorship rock from Uruguay," Rodriguez says. "Been around for 30+years adapting their sound to different eras and adding a lot of extra musical stuff on their performances."