We get very little fun tinkering with the idea of mariachi-centric music these days. It seems the idea thrives in short spurts, from Morricone-inspired tributes from Morrissey to the immutable “Conquest” and everything in between. And while U.K.-based Roja may not be having a ball with their latest batch of singles, it sure sounds like the soundtrack to an event that is inspired and perhaps devious.
“Company,” a track replete with cantina-styled horns and espionage-gilded guitar is Roja’s love letter to a bygone era where such music was as presentable a backdrop to a swinging soiree as it was a creation of a cinematic backdrop. Vocalist Simon Bradshaw is an excellent bridge between Tom Jones and Alejandro Escovedo, dangerous yet royally familiar all the same. Roja, as an outfit, isn’t simply smart in releasing “Company” as a means to brand themselves further. The group has clearly improved upon a niche genre that was collapsing into pure novelty.
Roja next presents us with easily the most entertaining cover of “Bad Romance” to date, culminating in a splendid amalgam of Liverpudlian and Central Mexican sensibilities to interpret the prescient catalogue of Lady Gaga. One can almost imagine an Eastwood type tossing his poncho aside and hand rolling a cigarette to a perfectly campy version of an already nuanced mega single.
Roja ought to be lauded on several fronts, the first of which is that their efforts are believable. Both “Company” and the wickedly fun “Bad Romance” aren’t corny facsimiles of a bygone era. Rather, Roja is a revitalization of mariachi in the traditional sense. Let’s give the boys a full-length soon and see whe