At the creative and commercial peak of his career, Andrés Calamaro released El Salmón in November 2000, a mammoth five-CD set of 103 songs (allegedly, some 400 of them were written over a one-year period), with a good 80-percent of them new, original compositions, and the remaining 20-percent covers from the most disparate sources, from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to tango and Argentine folklore, along with new versions of a few of his own songs. At the time, the set was largely deemed a chaotic shambles; evidence of the ramblings of a drugged mind, and of a writing
ecording obsessive-compulsive disorder. At best, it was perceived as a heroic, commercially suicidal gesture of the Metal Machine Music variety; at worst, as an Olympic and fatally deluded ego trip. Time has been kind to the madness that was El Salmón. Fellow musicians have been unreservedly admiring of the sheer deliriousness of such a project in times of industry crisis, as well as of Calamaro's courage to bare his soul -- even at the cost of massive personal embarrassment -- in this fanatical home-made documentation of a nightmarish period of his life. Those few listeners who not only bought the entire album (instead of the one-disc version that was also made available, chiefly a duplication of the first disc, and certainly the strongest one) but also had the patience to sift through the five CDs -- once they managed to discard the dross and make up their own reduced playlists -- were rewarded with some of the most striking material of Calamaro's career. Which is exactly what Salmonalipsis Now purports to do for a much larger audience in 2011. Ostensibly released to commemorate El Salmón's tenth anniversary, this latest reincarnation strips the bedlam down to two discs and 54 songs, with 49 present in original versions, plus five new tracks culled from the same marathon sessions. Perversely, and thus in keeping with the chaotic spirit of the project, tracks are sequenced in a completely and seemingly random new order, thus disrupting the original flow, if there ever was one to begin with, which is a moot point. Not even the original opener and closer are used here; the two songs were clearly designed as such: "Output/Input" is now the fifth track of the first CD, while "Este Es el Final de Mi Carrera," quite inexplicably, did not even make the list. There were basically three types of tracks on El Salmón: absolute gems, indefensible junk, and average songs that were OK but redundant (most of the covers fall into this category, and, fortunately, their number is greatly reduced here). Salmonalipsis Now actually does a great job of keeping all the songs that fall into the first category ("Ok Perdón," "Nos Volveremos a Ver," "Rumbo Errado," "Tu Pavada," "Tuyo Siempre," "Todas son Iguales," "Mi Funeral," and more), and mercifully forgetting those falling into the second, with the exception of the awful "Me Cago en Todo" -- perhaps as a token presence to somewhat mimic the original -- and very frustrating -- listening experience. Differences of opinion may arise about the third category, as most of these tracks are interchangeable, and the selection owes more to personal taste than to any objective value. Why "Ciudadano Pesado" instead of "Revistas"? "El Muro de Berlín" instead of "Presos de Nuestra Libertad"? Or the sorry cover Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" instead of the inspired reggae version of Vox Dei's "Libros Sapiensales II"? Of the new songs, "Música Lenta" is the clear winner, while the other four ("Mi Nariz," "Ringo y Alberto," "Feliz Cumpleaños," and a cover of Patricio Rey y los Redonditos de Ricota's classic "Superlógico") are no better or worse than the average Salmón track. The bottom line is, if you can still get hold of the five-CD set at a bargain price, get it and make your own selections. If not, Salmonalipsis Now is an excellent compendium of one of the most bizarre and fascinating releases in Rock en Español history. One way or another, this material is absolutely essential for fans of Andrés Calamaro, who eventually managed to regain his ailing physical and mental health, went on to recapture his commercial success, and kept on making solid, normal, albums, but never again did he deliver an artistic statement of this magnitude or daring.