Ozomatli: Fire Away

RIYL: Santana, Spearhead, Los Lobos

The Los Angeles culture-mashers are mixing up a vibrant stew on their fifth full-length LP, with producer Tony Berg (Aimee Mann, Pete Yorn) at the helm for a festive and diverse affair. Berg describes working with the band as “like visiting seven continents simultaneously” and the album sessions as having captured “the spirit of the band’s live show without being a live album.”

It’s hard to quantify Ozomatli in any particular genre since they mix up a musical collision of rock, funk, samba, salsa, hip-hop, cumbia, merengue, reggae and more. Tunes like “Are You Ready,” “45” and “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah” all surge with an upbeat party-rock flavor, mixing horns with big grooves and funky accents. Lead single “It’s Only Paper” recalls the ’90s barrio-pop vibe of Sublime, with catchy hooks and some social commentary on “the choices that you make… They say money is to blame, but it’s only paper.”

“Elysian Persuasion” cranks it up another notch with a hard-hitting jam and rocking beat that conjures a high-energy sound for one of the album’s best tunes. “Gay Vatos in Love” switches gears for a potentially controversial, jazzy R&B number. There are no gay members in the band, but the song is statement that every person should “have the right to choose who and how they love one another,” according to the band. This all-inclusive attitude, combined with the band’s diverse musical background, may well explain why Ozomatli has been sent around the world on a series of musical missions from the U.S. State Department.

“Malagasy Shock” recounts one such adventure where singer/guitarist Raul Pacheco had a self-described near-death experience when he was electrocuted onstage during the band’s State Department trip to Madagascar. Pacheco says the tune is about being “shocked into realizing life must be lived with a profoundly energetic fervor.” Such a fervor is what infuses much of the album. Another highlight is “Nadas Por Free,” an upbeat song that uses “Spanglish” to mix lyrics from both English and Spanish. “It’s Only Time” and “Love Comes Down” have the band amping down for a couple of ballads with a resplendent flavor that would fit nicely with a Pacific Ocean sunset.

Fire Away perhaps lacks that one particularly memorable breakthrough song, but is a strong overall outing that should give the band plenty of new material to keep their live dance parties going. (Mercer Street 2010)

Ozomatli MySpace page


SXSW Music 2010, Day 2: Upping the Ante

AUSTIN – I sacrificed an extra hour of sleep to make it out for what was scheduled as an 11:35 am day party set from Sass Jordan, the sensational Canadian blues rock goddess that seems like she’d be more from a place like Austin. But the stage at the club had collapsed and they had to move to another venue, pushing their set back to 12:20 pm. I told Sass I’d catch one of her other two shows, because I had a moral imperative to catch the 12:30 pm panel on “Music and The Revolution,” featuring ex-Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, Country Joe McDonald, the MC5’s Wayne Kramer and Kent State 1970 massacre survivor Alan Canfora. This was an amazing panel that I will report on in-depth in my SXSW wrap-up next week (along with more on all the following bands.)

Then there was a great panel on the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’ seminal jazz-rock masterpiece, Bitches Brew. More on that next week as well. The 1969-70 revolutionary rock magic was clearly in the air…

After a quick lunch it was over to the Jambase Treehouse Party at Cheers Shot Bar on 6th Street, up on the roof deck. Very nice setting for Red Cortez, a band out of Los Angeles that are pals and tourmates with the Airborne Toxic Event. They have an edgier sound, but clearly some of that same soulful, tuneful indie-rock thing that has long been brewing in LA’s Silverlake district.

The Mother Hips from San Francisco rocked it next, throwing down a hot set of their rich, melodic and bluesy sound. Paul Hoagland even brought his 12-string custom Hamer bass, and did it ever sound great out in the sun in the 5 o’clock hour. I was originally planning to stick around to see a couple more bands, but some gear issues had pushed it all back a half hour. I rode my trusty Trek 800 over to Threadgills to meet a friend, where we also heard a bit of Austin legend Roky Erickson, from the 13th Floor Elevators. Classic sounds…

Then it was over to Auditorium Shores, where LA’s Ozomatli was headlining the free outdoor fest by Town Lake. The band entertained a huge audience, driving the crowd into a frenzy with a “Masters of Puppets” tease during one funky bluesy jam (recalling Metallica’s electrifying semi-secret performance at Stubbs during SXSW 2009.)

From there it was over to the Austin Music Hall for Stone Temple Pilots, who threw down a true headlining set of 90 minutes that featured some strong new material and just kept getting better. The peak was during the encore when Robbie Krieger of the Doors joined the band for “Roadhouse Blues”! Absolutely epic SXSW moment that seriously raised the bar for the rest of the weekend. Krieger tore it up.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals were up to the task afterward at Antone’s, throwing down a captivating 75-minute set that went right up til 2 am, also featuring very strong material from their impending new album. At least three tunes went into sick jams catalyzed by the fantastic bass skills of new Nocturnal (and former Cardinal of Ryan Adams), Catherine Popper. The two of these gals were just dynamite and a hoped-for cover of “White Rabbit” did indeed materialize (they play it on the soundtrack for the new “Alice in Wonderland” flick), a great match on the evening with “Roadhouse Blues.”

Now I have to go find out when Potter & Co are playing tomorrow and try to get some sleep!


Related Posts