In modern parlance, it feels tawdry and out-of-date, like some dusty relic from the bottom of Hugh Hefner's rucksack (go ahead; take a second to recover from whatever you imagined). But as applied to the best Mexican export since Negra Modelo (the dance rock band from Monterrey), "Kinky" is quite apropos.
Kinky's taut and sinewy grooves--based in cumbia, norteño, and good old-fashioned techno--are their signature. Over these propulsive rhythms are angular modern rock, with vocals largely in Spanish. This sound, coupled with their almost-too-good-to-be-hetero looks, has made Kinky a marketer's wet dream. Everyone from Motorola to Smirnoff to Honda has utilized the group's songs in spots, and they make more frequent soundtrack appearances than John Williams.
Incredible though it may seem, Kinky owe their burgeoning worldwide popularity to that hoariest of rock success myths--the "Battle of the Bands" as anything other than a way to get chumps to play for free (despite what The School of Rock or shady local promoters would have you believe). It was after winning the annual Battle at the Latin Alternative Music Conference in 2000 that Kinky signed to Sonic360, a London-based label group owned by well-established producer Chris Allison.
Their eponymous debut followed in 2002. Armed with distribution deals from Nettwerk America and BMG Mexico, Kinky's global reach was greatly expanded. This coincided with the ongoing surge in popularity of rock en Español, virtually assuring the success of Kinky. And an appearance at South by Southwest in early '02 established Kinky's appeal to an Anglo audience, especially considering that dance-oriented rock music was then in the process of making its greatest comeback since the disco era.
The five-man group (Gilberto Cerezo, Ulises Lozano, Carlos Chairez, Omar Gongora and Cesar Pliego) returned to the studio in 2003 to make Atlas, where they strove for a harder rock sound. While Atlas is still a pop album like its predecessor, the influence of guests, like metal producer Thom Russo, is indelible. The songs are more driving, more compressed and altogether less synthesized. Atlas still uses electronics, but in a more restrained way, like florid punctuation!!?! in an otherwise terse sentence. And strangely, Atlas is actually made better by the presence of Cake's John McCrea (on "The Headphonist"). Too bad it doesn't work that way on actual Cake albums.
Since the beginning of 2003 it's been (almost) nothing but accolades and awards for Kinky. They won two GrammysTM for Kinky and another for Atlas. They've made appearances on every late night talk show save The Tonight Show, and most recently, they recorded a cover of "Oye Como Va" that was featured prominently in Man on Fire, the recently released revenge fantasy starring Denzel Washington.
Finally, it's important to emphasize that, recorded success notwithstanding, Kinky is most at home on a stage. They put on a powerful live show, and cause women and men alike to weaken at the knees and swoon. And even if that's exaggerating a bit, underestimate their kinky sexiness at your peril!