Thursday, September 14, 2006
LOS LOBOS | The Town and the City | Hollywood Records
Over their 33 years, Los Angeles’ Los Lobos has been many bands. They’ve been a group of Americana music aficionados that play straight blues, soul and country numbers. They’ve been a collective of adventuresome musicians recording soundscapes with surreal lyrics—a phase explored further on their superb side projects as the Latin Playboys. And, at other times, they’re just a Chicano band hoping to get the party started with their cumbias and covers of Ritchie Valens’ tunes.
On their 13th album, The Town and the City, which is one of their best studio efforts of the last decade, Los Lobos wallow in their diversity. The opener titled “The Valley” has an experimental sound due to the track’s effects-laden guitars, which sound like laser beams. With its percussion and dark lyrical content, “Hold On” could be a number off of Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs, while “The Road to Gila Bend” is a fuzzy country rock stomp that would make Neil Young proud. Most of the latter part of the CD finds Los Lobos taking a more straightforward approach to their songs, from the electric blues of “Two Dogs and a Bone” to “Little Things,” which sounds like a classic rock nugget.
It’s a real testament to the band that none of these genre excursions sound forced, and in the end, The Town and The City seems to have a little bit of something for all different types of Los Lobos fans. —Stuart Thornton
A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS | We Are the ‘80s | Epic Legacy
Widely and resoundingly ridiculed as bearers of absurdly ugly coiffure, light weight tunes and bizarre facial expressions in the video for “I Ran,” AFOS and their “greatest hits” are in fact, widely underrated. From an era of synth-pop froth and glutinous movie soundtrack bilge, they seem to have gained a rep as standard bearers among the English bands as some kind of grotesque figureheads.
In reality, their hits are timeless bubblegum, no different in their way from Tommy James and the Shondells or the best of ‘N Sync. The mega-smash “I Ran” never ages and is a textbook example of one itchy hook after another. And anyone capable of resisting “Space Age Love Song” or “Telecommunication” is a much stronger person than me.
With way too human beats and a guitar player that was surely the Edge’s Liverpudlian cousin, this is bona fide rock and roll. Much more so than Night Ranger or whatever FM abominations have accrued camp dignity in our time. The first six tunes are all you need, so only half of this is crucial, but it sure is painless fun. —Johnny Angel
RICK ROSS | Port of Miami | Slip-n-Slide
Let’s explain something: Hip-hop is like wrestling, and Miami’s Rick Ross has muscled his way in with a big personality, buzzwords like money, bricks, and whips, and, you know, some sound effects from Scarface. Consider the mantra he puts down on “White House.” Follow the bouncing ball: “I’m on top of the world/ I’m gettin’ money/ Hundred-grand any day easy/ I’m gettin’ money.”
But while Port of Miami’s mythological view of the dope game can be as dumbed down as most rappers’ trappin’-and-pimpin’ caricature of “the ‘hood,” “Hustlin’” and its colossal back-at-the-chicken-shack blues-infected turnarounds place Ross at the forefront of a new era in hip-hop lyricism, one that emphasizes consolidating words rather than merely rhyming them. Or consolidating numbers: “Don’t tote no .22s/ Magnum cost me 22/ Tatted on them 22s/ Birds go for 22/ Li’l momma super thick/She say she 22/ She seen them 22s/ We in room 2-22.” —Makkada B. Selah