La Radiolina (Nacional Records, 2007)
After a 6 year hiatus Manu Chao has blazed back onto the music scene with his third solo album La Radiolina. He previous offerings Clandestino and Proxima Estacion: Esperanza, along with his work with the punk-heavy sound of the band Mano Negra, have elevated Chao to star status in Europe and Latin America and a growing popularity in the fringe in the U.S. Leaning heavily on the political legacy of a Basque mother and a journalist father who fled Francisco Franco’s Spain, Chao is a champion of leftist ideals and organizations, and La Radiolina is quick with a poke in the eye for what Chao sees as oppressors, including the Bush administration.
La Radiolina, edgy and plucky at the same time, is a ramped up kick in the ass, a global stew of genres boiling over the sides of a polyglot melting pot of lyrics and music. Pooling a sound from punk, rock, Spanish flamenco, French pop and Latin alternative, La Radiolina‘s fresh sound also dips into reggae, folk and salsa as Chao delivers lyrics in Spanish, French, Galician, Arabic, English Portuguese and Wolof. The almost frenzied pace and raw wired sound might initially strike the listener as utter bedlam, but genius of La Radiolina is in its tightly textured depth.
Hip deep in the razzle dazzle of tightly packed almost rockabilly guitar, opening track "13 Dias" is a shot in the arm with Chao’s driving vocals. La Radiolina doesn’t slack off as it launches into the hard-driving "Tristeza Meleza" or reggae influenced "Politik Kills" with its outspoken lyrics. "Bosoin de la Lune" possesses a curious sound, as if it were a cross of Afro pop and rockabilly with some anxious Bob Dylan sounding, French lyrics right up front in the driver’s seat.
"Me Llaman Calle" might be one of the few tracks that goes without surprise, although how a chunky Spanish-Cuban song, complete with flashes of flamenco guitar, got on the CD might just be the surprise. Partnered with "Me Llaman Calle" is a "A Cosa," moving La Radiolina away from the frenetic with brass, heavy-lidded lyrics and a plodding beat, but the CD picks up the pace with the thrashing "The Bleedin Clown."
"Mala Fama" and "Otro Mundo" are treasures, but I really could have done without the sirens on "Panik Panik," which really struck me as one of those caffeine-fueled routs that should have been tossed.
For Chao fans who’ve waited six years for a follow-up CD, La Radiolina offers bonus tracks that include "Y Ahora Que?" and "Siberia," but I won’t spoil the surprise.
Buy Manu Chao’s recordings:
- In North America: Baionarena, Clandestino, La Radiolina, Radio Bemba Sound System, Politik Kills Remix EP, Proxima Estacion: Esperanza, Radio Bemba Sound System Live, Baionarena (Limited Edition DVD-style packaging with photobook, import)
- In Europe: Baionarena Digipack, La Radiolina, Proxima Estacion: Esperanza,