Ruido en el Sistema/Static in the System - Alex Cuba
Alexis Puentes a.k.a Alex Cuba is the static in the system. He’s the buzz that with each Juno award, each Grammy nod, every accolade and critical praise is getting increasingly harder to ignore. So the question is what’s the system going to do about it? For the purposes of this review let’s call the system commercial radio or, to give corporate music formatics the benefit of the doubt, let’s narrow it down even further and refer to the system as Triple A radio. That’s Adult Album Alternative. In my major market, the latest Triple A radio station was licensed with a mandate to provide 45 percent Canadian talent, nearly half their playlist! Alex Cuba lives in Smithers, BC; the Bulkley Valley – the rugged heartland of this great province for crying out loud, and he’s recognized as an important emerging, alternative artist on both sides of the border. There’s just one catch, 13 out of the 14 tracks on his newly released fourth album, Ruido en el Sistema/Static in the System are sung (beautifully I might add) in Spanish. Ironically, considering how Canada allows itself to be blindly led by the nose by the United States when it comes to culture and the arts, this is probably less of an issue for those south of the 49th. There, the cultural impact of Latin America on their ‘melting pot’ is undeniable and unstoppable. Alex, born and raised in Cuba, now a Canadian resident will no doubt find many happy on air homes in America. But is Canada ready for Rock en Espanol? Hardly! Even if from one of its own. Anticipating this, as a savvy musician and businessman, Alex found a great English language lyricist to collaborate with on the first single and the only English track on the disc, Are You. There’s also the Spanish version, Eres. And, there’s a duet in Spanish with Nelly Furtado, small payback no doubt for his work writing nearly all of her 2012 album Mi Plan in Spanish (a language by the way she is not totally fluent in, so the point of the exercise was …?).But, buried beneath the goodness of Alex’s signature and singular expressions of Cuban, R&B and rock, at number 12 is a killer piece of power pop perfection called Creo. This dealmaker soars with bigger hooks than most emerging Canadian alt-rock acts could ever hope to wield convincingly. Will it ever see spins on Canadian Tripe A radio? I’m not holding my breath. Buy the disc and don’t be constrained by the system. Listen instead to the persistent static.