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My personal tribute to Fernando Alfaro

Yesterday I had the great pleasure (and honor) of playing guitar with one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the Spanish indie generation, Fernando Alfaro. He played at the birthday party of Víctor, a friend of mine, and after Alfaro’s acoustic set a group of friends (Víctor on bass, Eli on drums and me on guitar) joined him on the stage to play five of his songs, including his mythical “Fuerte!”. Fernando Alfaro was really kind with us (he even congratulated me for my guitar parts) and I’ve decided to wrote some words about his career, including a video link from every album.

Fernando Alfaro has been a key artist in the period of transition between the 80s “movida” and the 90s Spanish indie scene. From Albacete, a provincial city far from the hip scenes of the big cities, he created a very personal lyrical universe and a distinctive music style. His lyrics range from the most disturbing and insane to the most delicate, often in the same verse. And his trademark sound is based on his whispered voicce rising from a wall of guitars.

He fronted the band Surfin’ Bichos (Surfin’ Bugs) from 1988 to 1994, probably the biggest non-US influence of the Spanish indie generation.

Surfin' Bichos - La luz en tus entrañas
Their first album was La luz en tus entrañas (The Light on Your Entrails, 1989) and, despite a dated production, it had all the twisted elements of Alfaro’s universe. Gente abollada (Dented People) was their first emblematic song.

Surfin' Bichos - Fotógrafo del cielo
Fotógrafo del cielo (Photographer of Heaven, 1991), their sophomore effort, included insane stories of love and death like the one depicted on the song Sonidos (Sonidos), one of the songs we played yesterday. #6 album of 1991 for Rockdelux

Surfin' Bichos - Hermanos carnales
Their masterpiece. Hermanos carnales (Carnal Brothers, 1992) was considered by Rockdelux the #19 Spanish album of all-time. Intended as a double album about the twins of the Cronenberg movie “Dead Ringer”, with each album devoted to every twin (“Elliot is colder, the public relations, and Beverly the related with the shy and intimate songs” in Alfaro’s words). Finally it was released as a single album with a story of incest tying some songs. Some songs (“Mi hermano carnal” or “Mis huesos son para ti” ) showed the disturbing side of the band while others (“Abrazo en un terremoto” or “Ella y yo” ) showed the delicate one. The most similar to a hit single that Alfaro had in his whole career was Fuerte! (Strong!). At the time they became almost popular, they even opened for Nirvana on their Spanish 1992 shows.

Surfin' Bichos - El amigo de las tormentas
Surfin’ Bichos disbanded after their fourth album, El amigo de las tormentas (The Friend of the Storms, 1994), an album that included El final de una quimera (The End of a Chimera, the prophetic song that is considered by many the best one of the band (Rockdelux put it at #4 of the Spanish song of the 90s).

The band splitted in two, the musicians Joaquín Pascual, Carlos Cuevas y José María Mora went to form another band, Mercromina (Mercurochrome) that released five excellent albums with a vocal and lyrical style quite reminiscent of Alfaro’s but with a more luminous and floating approach. I strongly recommend their compilation 1995-2005, available on Spotify. As a sample, some delicious links, En un mundo tan pequeño (In a World so Small, 1997), Evolution (1999) and Lo que dicta el corazón (What the Heart Dictates, 2005).

Fernando Alfaro meanwhile went to form another band, Chucho (Mutt) releasing another four albums almost as critically acclaimed and fascinating as the Surfin’ Bichos ones. This band included Isabel León on keyboards, partner of Fernando and also member of Surfin’ Bichos. She released also a solo album under the name of Is, you can listen Pimpinela Punk (2005).

Chucho - 78
After an EP in 1995, 78 (1997) was the first album of Fernando Alfaro with his new band that deepened into his rarified universe. They were many remarkable songs on this album, particularly “Un ángel turbio” but I’ve selected the great El detonador EMX 3 (The EMX-3 Detonator), part of the soundtrack of the Amenábar movie “Abre los ojos”, the Spanish original version of “Vanilla Sky”

Chucho - Tejido de felicidad
And then a breathe of fresh air. After the birth of the first daughter, Fernando released Tejido de felicidad (Tissue of Happiness, 1999), an emotional rollercoaster from happiness to despair. A highly acclaimed album (#89 Spanish album of all-time according to Rockdelux), a beautiful cover art and some of the more optimstic songs of Alfaro, exemplified by the song Magic.

Chucho - Los Diarios de Petróleo - Fragmento principal
For the second time a record label rejected a double album Project from Alfaro (but agreed to release an album and two Eps). Los diarios del petróleo (The Petrol Diaries, 2001), the most autobiographical of his albums (the title aludes to the daily work of Fernando at a fuel station), is another brilliant album, #6 Spanish album of the 00s according (again) to Rockdelux. My favourite song is “Ricardo ardiendo” but, since it’s not available on You Tube, enjoy Mi padre (My Father).

Chucho - Koniec
And Fernando Alfaro disband again his second band with this album, Koniec (2004). A return to rock, fueled by songs as La mente del monstruo (The Mind of the Monster).

After that he has released two solo albums proving he still has a lot of things to say.

Fernando Alfaro y Los Alienistas - Carnevisión
Carnevisión (Fleshvision, 2007) under the name of Fernando Alfaro y los Alienistas is an album of maturity that includes songs as brilliant as Problemas de sueño (Problems of Sleeping).

Fernando Alfaro - La vida es extraña y rara
His last album (and the first under his own name) is called La vida es extraña y rara (Life Is Strange and Rare, 2011) and I admit that I haven’t still listened to it. But, after listening yesterday songs like Camisa hawaiana de fuerza (Hawaiian Straitjacket), I got no doubt. Fernando Alfaro did it again.

Many thanks, Fernando. For everything.

Re: My personal tribute to Fernando Alfaro

Very interesting this article.

Fernando Alfaro is a key player in
popular music of the past 25 years, and today,
remains one of the main drivers of
quality rock music.

Congratulations to Honorio: to share the stage with
Fernando Alfaro and for this article.

Re: My personal tribute to Fernando Alfaro

Congratulations to Honorio for this article.

Yeah, nobody makes posts as thoroughly like Honorio does.

Re: My personal tribute to Fernando Alfaro

I second that. Honorio is the master of posts here and should be awarded the Grand Cross of the Acclaimed Music Forum Membership

Re: My personal tribute to Fernando Alfaro

Many thanks, Mindrocker, Nicolas and Otisredding. But it's not deserved. I found some mistakes after reading it again (maybe I wrote it too fast) but it's not a big deal anyway. This time more than ever it's the thought that counts.

Re: My personal tribute to Fernando Alfaro

I second that. Honorio is the master of posts here and should be awarded the Grand Cross of the Acclaimed Music Forum Membership