In most of the western world, mainstream 80s music is looked on as a bit of an embarrassment, the decade where rock music disintegrated into a mishmash of synths and drum machines and even established artists were putting out cringeworthy records. Not so in Argentina however, where the military dictatorship finally crumbled in 1983 and young people were freer than they'd ever been - making the 80s the decade where Argentinian rock music really took off. Soda Stereo, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and Sumo even found success in Europe.
Ideally positioned for this was Charly García, who had enjoyed success with his groups Sui Generis and Seru Giran and recently embarked on a solo career. While Charly came to be associated with excess and stunts (jumping off the 9th floor of a hotel for example in 2000), in the 80s he had a remarkable run of hits, not least with his 1987 offering, Parte de la Religión. While it comes in at a measly 10 tracks, it contains songs - Buscando un Símbolo de Paz, No Voy en Tren, Rezo por Vos - that he would always be remembered for.
Necesito Tu Amor kicks the album off with a bang, its anthemic chorus and heavy synths battering the listener into submission. The understated Parte de la Religión starts off like a pastoral Mummer-era XTC, before the warm, slightly unnerving synthesizer kicks in - much like Adela en el Carrousel, where a sparse drum beat accompanies a fine electronic lullaby.
While I've always found No Voy en Tren to be overrated, Rezo por Vos is propelled by a fine hook that is perfect to pogo to - and a quick YouTube search show plenty of Argentinians doing just that. Co-written with the legendary and now sadly deceased Luis Alberto Spinetta, it's a song that defined plenty of adolescences.
There are a couple of missteps. Rap de las Hormigas tries far too hard to be quirky and manic, and Charly does funk far better with his next album, Cómo Conseguir Chicas (see Fanky for a good example). And El Karma de Vivir al Sur is just a little too sleepy for my liking, never quite getting anywhere.
While a lot of Argentinian rock sounds to me like a bad Rolling Stones goes punk rock, Parte de la Religión definitely does its own thing, as you would expect from someone as intense as Charly. And with hooks like these, you certainly don't need to be a Spanish speaker to enjoy fun, electro-tinged pop music.