L.A. septet Ozomatli delivers such engaging, energetic shows that their studio work can be anti-climatic in comparison. Their fifth disc opens on a Latin house party spilling into the street. “Are You Ready?” is an upbeat barrage of percussion and brass, mariachi and norteño. The revelry abates when the cranky neighbors — represented by deep bass breakdowns — complain.
“Gay Vatos in Love” is a brassy, swinging, sock-hop-style song reminiscent of Los Lobos. Although catchy, the track stands out for its subject matter: “The more I hear of Morrissey, the more I feel alright.”
The group takes an ill-advised detour into pedestrian pop on the Jack Johnson-inspired and -assisted “It’s Only Paper,” and they expose their soft, singer-songwriter underbelly on two ballads, “Its Only Time” and “Love Comes Down.” These stripped-down, saccharine songs drive the party down to the Lilith Fair.
On closing track “Cabalitio,” car keys jingle as a voice speaks from a car radio, and we’re back on a road trip along the Mexican border. A polka-style tuba provides the bass line for this exhilarating, fast-paced ride.
Ozomatli’s best served by their Latin-flavored SoCal soundtracks, the mash-ups of rock, hip-hop, funk, and soul with a side of salsa. Leave the blubbering and bubble gum to pop stars.
- Album: Fire Away (2010)
- Artist: Ozomatli
- Label: Mercer Street Records/Downtown Records
- Songs: (1) Are You Ready? (2) 45 (3) It's Only Paper (4) Elysian Persuasion (5) Gay Vatos in Love (6) Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (7) It's Only Time (8) Nadas for Free (9) Malagasy Shock (10) Love Comes Down (11) Caballito