The Pour House, Raleigh
Thursday, March 12, 2015

Last Thursday night, Argentine-Spanish rock trio Capsula took the stage at The Pour House, standing in front of an orange, black and white banner of a tiger being hunted in the woods. With Martín Guevara on guitar, Coni Duchess on bass and Iñaki Guantxe (a newer addition) on drums, Capsula have long been making their name on the American scene, playing SXSW seven times and touring constantly. The band have become known for high-energy performances of psychedelic-tinged songs, a match fitting the colors and kinetics of the background image.

Thursday’s show was no exception. Dovetailing between songs, the setlist moved from stripped-down Bowie covers (they did, after all, produce an entire cover version of Ziggy Stardust in 2012) to newer songs such as “Dark Age” and “What’s in the Mirror.” The audience stayed near the stage, headbanging and eventually creating a mosh pit. The mixed crowd of Spanish and English speakers was so involved in the music that the platitude of music being the “universal language” seemed, for a moment, renewed.

Then again, the singing was almost completely in English.

In 1972, the song “Prisencolinensinainciusol” reached No. 1 on the European charts despite not being in any language at all. The swinging pop tune of Italian singer Adriano Calentano features gibberish lyrics made to sound like American English. Novelty songs aside, the massive influence of American popular music has led musicians, fans, and critics alike to ponder the question: Are some languages better for certain types of pop music than others?

In a conversation on Thursday, Martín Guevara made a strong case for the artist ultimately deciding these matters. “Our first two albums were completely in Spanish. After that, we were transitioning into English. It was an artistic decision,” he said. “The shorter phrases in English work for what we do.”

But whether Guevara and Duchess are growling, howling or crooning in English or in Spanish during their energetic live shows, the lyrics take a back seat to timbre, anyway. A formidable Duchess channels Exene Cervenka while effortlessly wielding her thumping bass, and Guantxe (former member of Señor No) seems to have been with the group for years, such is the consistency of his drumming. Guevara’s guitar playing weaves in and out of chromatic passages while he chants haunting verses in whatever language works best for the song.

In the end, it seems, it’s all about the delivery. And on Thursday, Capsula delivered.