Los Tigres del Norte, by this point in their career, were larger than life. Although they worked very much in the mold of commercial country music — most of their songs written by outsiders, shameless TV promotion, lavish packaging — the edgy quality of Los Tigres‘ material and their innovative use of sound effects placed them on a remote summit of folk respectability, other norteño musicians’ reputations hopelessly pedestrian in comparison. They are, to Mexican music, what Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson are to American music, although the analogy is not perfect: first, because Los Tigres are very much a band; and second, because Los Tigres have always sounded the way they sound, and have not really deviated from their formula. Imagine Johnny Cash‘s Sun output merging seamlessly into American Recordings and you will get an idea of Los Tigres‘ legacy. This is not to say that they don’t experiment. On Herencia de Familia they even include a song in English (it’s terrible) and one in “Spanglish” (possibly a sort of gesture to their growing gringo audience). On earlier records, Los Tigres had dabbled in rock, and actually throughout the ’90s and into the new millennium had endowed each new release with a kind of epic grandeur, reminiscent of how rock music is packaged and programmed.
Herencia de Familia is typical of this string of releases. It’s a double-CD package (although its actual contents could fit on a single disc with room to spare — the commercial standard in Mexico is 30 minutes per CD). Its initial brief soliloquy and tiger roar are followed by an ode to political cynicism. The next song is a radio-friendly romantic ballad with a catchy accordion hook and a soft rock drumbeat. A couple of songs later, they are begging Jesus to come and end what surely must be tribulation, then lurching into an uproarious and hilariously facile tribute to Las Vegas. The second disc starts at the same energy level as the first, then gradually peters out until listeners are left with a blatantly filler version of “Alla in el Rancho Grande.” This is way beyond what you should expect from a typical norteño release. And in fact, one would be hard-pressed to recall a group exploring the political and psychological Zeitgeist of Mexico the way Los Tigres (or at least their songwriters) do. This is how rock audiences are wooed, and it makes Los Tigres the most attractive of the norteño bands for non-Mexicans. It’s hard to evaluate Herencia in comparison to other Los Tigres disks, simply because Los Tigres were so consistent during this period. But no one who picks it up, regardless of background, will be disappointed.