his world go crazy...”
The age of the dominant superpower is being redefined and our access to the intricacies and traditions of other cultures is, thanks to...I dunno, that blanket-symptom and double-edged sword known as the internet.
Which is great for music lovers because, as Morrissey said: America is not the world. But, when you’re tired of the Foo Fighters, or hell, even Spoon at this point, and you want to broaden your palette, where do you go? The New Yorker says it’s this guy: This befuddled generation’s Bob Marley, Manu Chao—a smoosh of early 90’s alt-rock, Latin swing, punk rock, Afro-beat, and flamenco.
La Radiolina is 21 songs, 13 of them are revved up rockers with a distinct Latin flavor, some of which awkwardly fade away after only two minutes. Just as you’re settling into the steady piston-pound of one dissertation’s punk rhythm, it disintegrates to be replaced by the next toe-tapping rampage.
This goes on for the first six songs. “Tristeza Maleza,” for example, is a trippy-jazz fusion that recalls Thrill Jockey, only to have its wah-heavy guitars fade away for a urgent message to our country’s embattled leader, “Senor Presidente…Zhjorge Boosh…cuidado!...” (I’m fuzzy on my 10th grade Spanish, but the “cuidado” part is encouraging.)
The high-neck-pedal-effected guitar rock (think Bends-era Johnny Greenwood) of the first six songs soon departs for a more prominent, stripped down Caribbean essence, which lingers for the next few movements (with the exception of “The Bleedin Clown,” which has ghostly guitar tones hovering over a running punk beat.)
From “Panik Panik” onward, however, the two conflicting musical ideals, world beat and punk rock cease their friction and marry together perfectly…or so I thought. Not two minutes later, the whole thing dissipates disarmingly.
Anyway, most of the album is in Spanish (or another sort of quasi-idiom that he invented) and it combines distinct genres from other sides of the world. Which is probably part of the reason that Chao, born to Spanish parents, raised bilingual in France and speaker of also Arabic and Italian, is beloved throughout the South America and Europe.
But, unfortunately, to these ears, something gets lost in the translation. His two biggest theses with La Radiolina seem to be 1) a statement against geopolitics, verbalized in “Politik Kills”: “Politik Kills…Politick needs lies, Politik needs your mind…that’s why my friend it’s an evidence…Politik is vi-olence” and 2) a statement against cultural barriers, to which this album, musically and lyrically acts as a sledgehammer. Chao is the epitome, as artist and as mere human, of a world citizen.
Which makes it, in the end, a bit jumbled together and disorienting, but overall just about as rejuvenating as anything.
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