Fighting Words

If you consider Enrique Bunbury the only survivor after the sinking of Titanic-like Spanish rock band Heroes del Silencio, then his fascination with dark and foggy atmospheres will seem appropriate. In his new solo album, the fourth since Heroes released its last live disc (ironically named Para Siempre [Forever]) in 1996, Enrique Bunbury takes the stance of a fighter holding his breath in the corner of a darkened ring. Flamingos, the album's title, is taken from one of those clubs where people only go to get drunk and forget. Bunbury knows those dives don't hold conventional boxing matches -- just the occasional naked-fist resolution. That's good enough for him.

Bunbury takes a deep breath before letting it all out. "I wouldn't like to be a whiner, un llorón" he says, "but my solo career has been full of bumps, and I haven't had all the support in the world. However, I feel really proud of the way I've been able to manage it." He dismisses the ongoing requests that he carry on the Heroes' legacy on his own. From the record company's point of view, there was good commercial reason to try to repeat the old pattern: Between 1987 and 1996, Heroes del Silencio released seven albums and sold more than four million copies across Europe and Latin America. Instead Bunbury's first solo release, Radical Sonora (Loudly Radical), in 1997 was a huge departure from the Heroes' conventional rock formula, with lots of computer programming and electronic beats.

His defiant techno outing showed him that the new path wouldn't be easy, as doubtful reviews poured in reminding him that the critics used to love him as the Jim Morrison of Zaragoza, but not as a wandering dance spirit. "When I say that I'm proud I mean after all the things I've heard, I think I've demonstrated that there was life after Heroes del Silencio, and that at least for me, that life was way more interesting than what came before," sums up Bunbury.

Now as he looks back on that period, he understands that he couldn't carry other people's expectations any further. "Everybody wanted the golden goose to live forever, but we were dead long before, and there was no way to resurrect us -- except for that little polluelo with other intentions," he says about himself and how his new life started.

Enrique Bunbury, whose real last name is Ortiz de Landazuri -- he adopted the nickname Bunbury from an Oscar Wilde novel -- says he knows that even though the sales of his first solo album are close to the numbers Heroes del Silencio used to sell in Spain, the music left a sour taste. "I know that I couldn't convince people with Radical Sonora, but then little by little, things started to change with Pequeño (Small) [1999] and got much better with Pequeño Cabaret Ambulante (Small Wandering Cabaret) [2000], recorded live," explains the singer.

The albums he talks about were another kind of departure. After his techno experiments with Spanish lyrics, he went on to record his second solo album with a different approach: Techno gave way to a naked acoustic guitar, a gesture that resonated with the Enrique Spanish fans had loved in the Eighties and Nineties.

All of which explains why the brand new Flamingos -- released here by EMI Latin last May -- sounds like what Bunbury calls "a total reconciliation." Bunbury and his nine bandmates recorded first in a tiny town of just over 100 people near Aragon -- the city where he was born -- in a really poor region of northeastern Spain, before moving on to Figueres, the city in Cataluña where surrealist artist Salvador Dali was born and where Bunbury rented a studio for four months. "We had to drive to the next town just to get beer," he laughs. Far from the temptations of cities such as Los Angeles, New York, or London, the musicians -- all younger than the 35-year-old Bunbury -- completed the sessions with their backs to the Pyrenees Mountains and their eyes fixed on the Mediterranean Sea.

The whole process took almost a year. That's why Bunbury says that even though he is proud of the music, the extended recording session had ill-fated consequences. "My wife left me," he says with a forced laugh. It's hard to get out over a telephone line, but he says it anyway: "I left my house for a whole year, that's why. I don't know what came first, but certainly this album has a lot to do with my new marital status," he accepts.

Hence the dark tone that filters through the fifteen songs on Flamingos, where he delivers some good rock numbers, such as the opening "El Club de Los Imposibles" (The Hopeless Club"), and plenty of deep thoughts. But that doesn't make it easier for him to go on with the album after such a sad grand finale. "I have my ups and downs," he admits about promoting songs where he mostly talks about broken hearts.

He feels it's important to release the record in the United States in order to show another way of doing things. "There's a moment when music, for people like Emilio Estefan, is only entertainment," he rants. "That in fact is an important part, but it's not all we are talking about. Charly Garcia, or Andres Calamaro, or Fito Paez are not just entertainment; they are in music for a different reason -- the same reason I am. I think Rock en Español as a genre -- and as a generation -- is disintegrating. It's time to start worrying about it. On the album I've thanked artists that inspire me, people who don't necessarily have anything in common. All I know is we share the attitude, and we shouldn't lose it. In a way it's like a wake- up call to all those who, like me, still have the illusion of doing things differently."

Having said so, the one-time Hero makes it into the next round of interviews. Now it's even easier to see the fighter in him.


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