Songs of the City

You may recall Baby Rock, the notorious Tijuana nightclub founded in the late ’80s. A 1997 U.S. News and World Report article on Mexico’s booming drug trade found it to be “an elaborate faux-cave, four-level disco that is one of the Tijuana cartel’s hangouts [where] 1600 guests boogied to popular ‘narco-[corridos]’...about traffickers who outwit or buy off officials.” Among other acts — almost all Latin — a younger, closeted Ricky Martin played there; on March 8, 1992, a bizarre Public Enemy show there ended at 3:35 a.m. (this scribe reviewed it in these pages). Sixteen years to the day after PE’s gig, the “Baby” was ceremoniously dropped, and the club became “The Rock.”

A new song getting worldwide airplay namechecks the garish, velvet-roped joint: “‘BabyRock’ Rock,” a shimmering meld of vintage New Order and techno-tweaked norteño by Clorofila, aka Jorge Verdín. It’s on Corridos Urbanos, the debut album from the Nortec Collective member. (The video for “‘BR’ R” is just out.)

Verdín, an L.A. ad agency art director, was raised in Tijuana’s La Mesa section. He has been a key aesthetician in TJ’s Nortec Collective. Before now, it was primarily via his identity-establishing visuals, synthesizing border-culture imagery and pop art. His art designs earned him (and partner Fritz Torres) a 2006 Latin Grammy nomination for “Best Recording Packaging” (of Nortec Collective’s Tijuana Sessions, Vol. 3; Clorofila contributed four tracks).

Corridos Urbanos is Clorofila’s triumph, among 2010’s best-of for the TJ/SD region. And “‘BabyRock’ Rock” breaks new ground. “This is the first Nortec track I wrote lyrics for,” Clorofila notes on his blog. “Since [it] had a very New Order-ish vibe to it, I decided to incorporate the recurring themes from my favorite songs of theirs: rejection, emotional awkwardness, broken or strained relationships, and indulgence as a way of coping. All...fit into the overall concept of doing a song that could have been played in the clubs I went to while growing up as a teenager during the ’80s in Tijuana.”

But did he frequent Baby Rock? Explained Verdín by email, “I never went to Baby Rock because it seemed like the place that everybody had to go...to feel like part of Tijuana’s fresa scene [slang for stuck-up preppies].... By all accounts, the music mostly sucked there.... Timbiriche and horrible crap like that.”

Verdín and music-video director Gabriel Nogüez avoided any Baby Rock shots in the video, instead showing a modern couple “in a very natural, unaffected, non-glamorous way, completely devoid of irony and hipness. There’s too much irony and aspirational imagery in videos, so I was glad to avoid that, as much as that stereotypical Tijuana party-town stuff.”

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"Fresa" of course, translates to "strawberry". It's Mexico's version of a "valley girl" reference. Baby Rock is nothing more than a scene club. I've been everywhere here that matters and have never been to Baby Rock and will never go unless someone pays me great sums of money. It's pointless. Verdín is accurate, the music sucks and the people suck.

Verdín (and really, all of the Collectivo) have always had their collective heads screwed on straight when it comes to the real Tijuana. I'm glad to see that this latest effort is no different. I'll happily buy Verdín a Tecate next time I see him in the Dandy. And I'll hope that efforts like Corridos Urbanos continue to positively affect the music scene here and elsewhere.

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