As the film Amores Perros vigorously captures love’s unforgiving moods of passion, betrayal, pain, and instinct in a hyperactive Mexican hue, likewise the soundtrack, produced by Argentine Gustavo Santaolalla, meticulously unleashes these fierce emotional perros in musical form. This is the retired roquero’s first score, but he’s long held a reputation for assuring the transcendence of Latin alternative music; key joints he produced for Café Tacuba and Molotov combined to sell millions. The soundtrack’s been lackadaisically described as an exposition of talented rock en español artists, but one of its most distinctive qualities is the variety of bilingual genres at work, extending from “Long Cool Woman” by the Hollies to Spain’s sassy garage punks Dover, who hatch the movie’s anthem, “Love Is a Bitch.”
On disc one, Santaolalla intertwines short-winded orchestral anecdotes, plus the vital dose of Mexican cumbia by Los del Garrote, around Latino hits from salsa goddess Celia Cruz, Mexican hip-hop originators Control Machete, and Argentina’s funkatronic booty shakers Illya Kuryaki. On-screen, Santaolalla’s steady mischievous beat in “Chivo Groove” complements conflicting and confrontational moments when the characters’ desperate search for self-identity travels at a lethargic speed. In the last of the songs actually heard in the film, ultra-alts Fiebre from Chile nail a powerful cover of the ballad “Lucha de Gigantes” by Spain’s long-forgotten NachaPop.
For disc two, various Latin alternative artists were asked to immerse themselves in the Amores Perros protagonists’ perspectives, moods, and inner turmoils. Julieta Venegas’s firm, rough-love vocals in “Me Van a Matar” (They Are Going to Kill Me) leave you aching to be lapped up just as the sultry, reassuring voice of up-and-coming bossa nova sheila Ely Guerra sweeps in like a heartache antidote. Mexico City’s Café Tacuba invent a symphonic hardcore punk with “Dog: God.” Cosme’s deep seductive voice pleads for mercy from the perspective of a dog trained to brawl with other dogs as part of a gambling racket, reflecting one of the various emotional tiers in Amores Perros. Dogs also growl ferociously in the background in Illya Kuryaki’s “Stop, Muerte,” though the duo’s effeminate vocals and Prince-like squeals thankfully add some amusement to penetrate all the grimness—a far cry from the incessant intensity of the movie itself.