The Scratched Record: Nubes
When recently I was talking about Santiago Feliú with some friends, I told them that gradually, surprising and sadly, I have stopped liking him. There are songs of him that once broke my soul and now I no longer swallow. With Carlos Varela it has been happening more or less the other way around. My relationship with him has been this: ignorance / discovery-shock-adolescent love / boredom / forgetfulness / rebirth.
I burned it at the age we all did, but so much that I got bored really quickly. Perhaps it was because I found the self-assurance, the heresy, the wooden face of Sabina, quite the opposite of what The Gnome is: a serious, mournful, Irish Catholic with shadows, who is serious, who costs him sarcasm . So I should have said: "it's over there and not here." Or maybe it was the silly — but natural for the pubescent snob that I was — habit of straying as far as I could from what the majority was listening to, a habit that gave me a lot, but took as much from me. There is an age when you are not ready to see the coolest in the classroom singing Like an Angel and say that you like him too. No way! He'll have some poison to make that illiterate idiot funny. Therefore, I pass. Life does not give you those primitive definitions again later, that is why adolescence is the most beautiful age.
Every time I listen to this album, time returns me to Varela just out of the shower, smelly and talcum, especially the lyricist, and this word goes without synonyms.
It is a mistake to think that singer-songwriters have to be poets. Although, what the hell is being a poet, right? But I say it thinking that perhaps I went with the rag in the past when I looked for more elaborate images in Carlitos like Silvio's, or as elegant, as erudite impostor as Sabina's, assuming that the troubadours had to be necessarily great illusionists of words who also knew how to sing and play the guitar. There are, of course, but it is not a sine qua non to categorize as a singer-songwriter. When you don't ask Varela to be Leonard Cohen, then you realize that as a lyricist he is at a very high level. Tell me obvious and old cunt, but I will repeat that the song is not a musicalized poem. The author of Habáname is not a great poet (at least taking as a reference only the lyrical side of his songs, because when you come to see the guy is so crack that he has some very good poems stored in the drawer), but he doesn't need it, because he's an extraordinary, first-class song-maker.
If you were born with a special sensor to capture tunes from the air, process them, harmonize them, join them with others and turn them into indelible melodic lines (and you have improved it along the way), then you can allow yourself a little lyrical laziness. In this genre, whoever dominates the melodic terrain with the mastery that Varela does has more than half the battle won; you would have to be very stupid to spoil a song.
Let's look at this fragment of the lyrics of Walls and Gates: “What good is the moon if you don't have the night / What good is a mill if there are no Quixotes left”. That, put like this, is a failure, a postcard with a rose background that you must send to 10 contacts; however, the subject does not rot because of that. You realize, you know there are better places on the album, but you let it go, because the group has other strengths. The poetic reverse is not of a sufficient entity to destroy the piece in its entirety, as it happens to other songs out there, which have very successful melodic constructions but the lyrics are a horror. Perhaps the most obvious example of Carlos Varela as a normal poet and exalted lyricist is the unparalleled A Word. Take away the music, publish the lyrics in a mute white notebook, and you will have a poem, not horrible, but worse than the ones my eighth grade Spanish-Literature teacher used to do, even though it seemed like a beast to me at that time. Now, it is enough for The Gnome to open his mouth for those same images to reach other resonances. It's that song lyrics aren't supposed to cross the bridge of communication alone. The poems do, because the poems are crude language, but the lyrics, in principle, are only part of the team, although some throw it on their shoulders, like Maradona in '86.
I don't know who produced this record, but they did it amazingly well. It has a very finished conceptual balance. Removing Nubes and Lucas and Lucía (not for nothing but because they have another type of march), it seems that the album is not such a thing, but the same great song that has been dosed for purely mechanical reasons. Instead of opening with the theme-title - now by force of habit, now because it has more hook than the rest - the production prefers to break the ice with one that better translates the temperature of the phonogram, its emotional accent. Further, the opening, and also Tarde gris, the next track, talk about a woman who left and a man who misses her. That is, a little more, a little less, the tone of these 12 pieces. Distance, flight, exile, absence. From Havana, from bed or from life, but distance, flight, exile, absence. The humor on the plate is almost entirely a consequence of her leaving town and he remembers when there are gray afternoons. So it is not crazy to assume that the songs (at least most of them) were born before the decision to make an acoustic album, and not the other way around. I can't imagine Carlitos singing "... and she was four moons deeper into my soul" with the band behind.
When the album came out in 2000 he was only 37 years old, but he was already a consecrated man, and one might think, mistakenly, that he had no need (that vain need of restless artists) to prove anything. However, he comes and appears with this, which is one of the greatest Cuban songwriting of all time (so as not to send me running and say something outrageous), with which he paid, precisely, his retirement. That is why one, after Siete has not been the same, to tolerate that he made soup with Los hijos de Gillermo Tell before the disenchantment of No es el fin, of the drought that came later, still asks if there is a physical edition of his latest work El grito mudo, even before listening to it in digital form, and even though he doesn't expect to get much out of it.
Cuando salió el álbum en el 2000 tenía solo 37 años, pero ya era un consagrado, y uno podría pensar, equivocándose, que no tenía necesidad (esa necesidad vanidosa de los artistas inquietos) de demostrar nada. Sin embargo, viene y se aparece con esto, que es de lo más grande de la cancionística cubana de todos los tiempos (para no mandarme a correr y decir alguna barbaridad), con lo cual pagó, justamente, su retiro. Por eso uno, después de que Siete no haya sido lo mismo, de tolerar que hiciera sopa con Los hijos de Guillermo Tell antes del desencanto de No es el fin, de la sequía que vino luego, todavía pregunta si hay una edición en físico de su último trabajo El grito mudo, incluso antes de escucharlo en variante digital, y a pesar de que no espera sacar mucho de ahí.
I'm leaving with Nubes, the first Varela song I heard. A canticle of deed for sub-17, sketch of the violent apprentices, they should make a bronze plaque for him in the place where the statue of Salvador Allende is located on G street, as they did with the score of the National Anthem in the Céspedes de Bayamo park. It is a theme, in the end, optimistic. Right now everything is cloudy, very cloudy, the sky is a uniform gray mass. It will pass, but know, as The Gnome knew, that when that happens, when the celestial returns, we will still have some of those nimbostratus inside for a long time, and that should not be a problem, as long as we know how to accommodate ourselves well and continue the fight. .
Carlos M. Mérida
Oidor. Coleccionista sin espacio. Leguleyo. Temeroso de las abejas y de los vientos huracanados.