posted on November 09, 2007 08:42
A review of the album La Radiolina by Manu Chao
Review Snapshot: A stonking new album from the multi-million selling music revolutionary, Manu Chao.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
'La Radiolina' is Manu Chao's first studio album in 6 years (and is my first experience of this French-Spanish performer). The record is the follow-up to Chao's three million-selling 'Roxima Estacion: Esperenza'. Chao grew up in Paris but now lives in Barcelona. Fronting anarchic genre-bending Mano Negra (Black Hand) until the band split in 1995, Chao has been travelling the world releasing the odd album to support his travel bug.
Over the course of 21 songs (stuffed into 52 minutes of solidly infectious music), Chao sings in (to my ears) four different languages and numerous styles. Of course, the flamenco styling of Latin music is to the fore, but 'Rainin in Paradize' is a full-on rock song with a lovely fluid guitar motif and driving drums (a la Tom Petty's 'Runnin' Down a Dream'). And it's just great. Especially his lyric rhyming 'atrocity', 'hypocrisy', 'democracy' and 'crazy' - imagine a serious political song sung by Manuel from Fawlty Towers. But in a good way!
But there is much more here. Evocative reggae (reminiscent of Exodus era Marley), sparse ballads, Calexico-style desert folk mixed in with some strident political sloganeering makes for an indulgent treat. I love the Mariachi guitar and trumpet on songs like the melancholy 'Mala Fama' and the more exuberant 'La Vida Tombola'. Indeed, like many of the tracks, it fades out after less than two minutes. Manu's tunes never out-stay their welcome. Most of the time this works, but sometimes the album feels like the listener is surfing the radio dial, dipping in and out of the tunes on offer. Maybe this is deliberate, hence the album name?
Manu Chao was a hero of the sadly departed Joe Strummer and the reggae stylings, mad laughter and Man-of-the-People rants are very reminiscent of the Clash. In recent years, both men became firm friends and I can imagine they had a shared view of the world. This album can't fail to enhance Manu Chao's reputation. 'La Radiolina' will make you pine for the rapidly disappearing summer season (at least for you guys north of the equator).
To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.