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Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain | Established. Jan 01, 1999 | MAJOR

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain | MAJOR
Established on Jan, 1999
Band Pop Rock


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Barcelona's Mishima has produced seven albums of American- and British-influenced rock and pop, including a pair—its two earliest—in English. Which makes it all the more surprising that Sunday's performance at Central Park was the band's first U.S. appearance.

"People tell us: 'You sound like an English band or a French band, and you don't sound like a Mediterranean band,'" Mishima's singer, David Carabén, said by phone last week from Barcelona. The group blends storytelling, a mature vocal sound and an uncluttered sonic environment. Its latest album, "L'ànsia que cura" (TRIS/Warner Music), released in May, was recorded near France's Loire Valley.

Mr. Carabén, 42, offers two explanations for his group's hybrid approach. From a political and cultural perspective, the banning of the Catalan language by Spain's dictator Francisco Franco harmed the development of a rock-and-pop tradition in the region. By the time the "rock català"—or Catalan rock—movement of the late 1980s and early '90s came along, Mr. Carabén was already hooked on rock from overseas.

"If you were a teenager in the '80s, you didn't have many records to express your feelings in your own language," he said. "The music I listened to was Anglo-Saxon and French, and we started emulating the bands we loved."

From a personal perspective, singing in English helped Mr. Carabén overcome his shyness on stage. "English was kind of a disguise. It was the best way for me to lose my embarrassment and feelings." But, he added, "I needed to write in my own language, to say the 'I love yous.'"

In the opening song of the band's first all-Catalan album, Mr. Carabén tiptoes toward giving voice to his heart: He is heard reciting the words to his wife, who sings them. "It was a mechanism," he said. "I dictated the words so I could avoid singing 'I love you.'"

For Mishima's fans who don't speak Catalan or Spanish, the shift was frustrating: On the band's first two albums, "Lipstick Traces" (2000) and "The Fall of Public Man" (2003), Mr. Carabén sang stories rich with keen observations and metaphors. But foreshadowing its new direction, Mishima included three tunes in Catalan on "The Fall of Public Man" and thereafter abandoned English altogether—though English translations of the lyrics are included in the album packages. Incidentally, though the band derives its name from the Japanese writer and anarchist Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), Mr. Carabén says he chose it on a whim.

Despite the shift to Catalan, Mishima's music is still rooted in rock. On "The Fall of Public Man," the band moved away from pop synths, placing Mr. Carabén's voice and acoustic guitar out front. For its 2012 disc, "L'amor feliç," the band muscled up with a thick midsection and sweeping electric guitars. On the new album, it opened the midrange again.

Mr. Carabén set a modest goal for the show in Central Park, which was sandwiched between the band's top-of-the-bill appearances at festivals in Barcelona on consecutive Fridays. "An outcome would be that we find people who are curious and appreciate songs from a far away and very small culture," he said. "Even though we are very bold when we record and are on stage, we have to be humble."

Under a gorgeous sky, Mishima explored its five native-language albums for a program billed as "Catalan Sounds on Tour." Early in the generous 22-song set, during "La teva buidor" from the new disc, the band found a folk-rock groove with Mr. Carabén's voice and fully articulated chords on acoustic guitar at its center. Twice, the group used a '60s drum pattern, the kind favored by Phil Spector, to open a tune. With "L'olor de la nit," from the 2010 disc "Ordre i aventura," it kicked off a stretch of songs that was pure chugging rock 'n' roll.

His shyness long banished, Mr. Carabén sang only in Catalan, but spoke mostly in English to the crowd, which featured pockets of gleeful Catalans who danced and sang along under the honey sun. At one point, even he may have been confused about which language was customary at the venue. "Merci. O gràcies," he said, mixing French and Catalan.

Though the band's musical performance translated with ease, for a listener handicapped by a lack of an appropriate second language, it was like listening to the Smiths without being able to understand Morrissey's lyrics.

After the show, a satisfied Mr. Carabén greeted a visitor, who asked if it were possible to capture an American audience that didn't understand the words. "Remember how it was in my country," he said. "We fell in love with the Beatles and we didn't know what they were singing." - Wall street Journal


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Currently at a loss for words...