Friday, January 18, 2013

Hammer and a Nail

Original Facebook post here.
Today's formative-album replay: Los Lobos, Kiko. I don't know how they did it, but somehow, by going weird and gritty and spacey, by burrowing deep into soundscapes and song structures as disorienting and diverting as dreams, L.A.'s greatest band made one of their catchiest, most accessible records. Maybe it's because these idiosyncratic blues, folk, and soul sounds aren't so far afield, after all; they're like the buried saints, fossilized trees, ancestors' bones, and secret catacombs they found by digging deeper in their own haunted backyard.

Indeed, I'm not sure why, but horticultural/botanical analogies keep suggesting themselves to me: This record is like an unweeded garden that's gone beautifully to seed, full of kudzu and fennel and teeming with colorful insects; it's like a collection of exotic cacti dotting the back porch of a bungalow on a hill somewhere on the Eastside of L.A.; it's a dark, velvety, flowering plant growing by ultraviolet light in a cracked basement. You get the idea (or do you?).

Truth to tell, it goes on a bit longer than is ideal, with "Wicked Rain" and "Whiskey Train" being two superfluous-seeming tracks. But even the straightforward stuff here is bent somehow, while the bent stuff stands up as sturdy as folk music (which at its best is wrought from crooked old timber, we easily forget). Like Achtung Baby, Kiko is a mid-career high that both sums up and steps up the game of an essential band.

Jimb Fisher From that short period around 20 years ago where it seemed everyone was rediscovering the Chamberlain.
Chris Wells Wow, that's a ballsy statement, "LA's greatest band." I would have said it was X. I wonder who else you think is in the running?
Rob Weinert-Kendt @Chris: I thought of X, The Doors, Beach Boys, The Byrds, NWA, The Go-Gos, GnR, Jane's Addiction, Concrete Blonde, Love, Ozomatli, Rilo Kiley, Van Halen, the Turtles, War...I'd still stand by Los Lobos, not least because they've always sounded more like the L.A. I know and love.
Laurel Green One of my all time favorite albums.
Adam Liston Honestly, it would have taken much longer to discover Tom Waits without them--"Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films".
Rob Weinert-Kendt @Adam: That record's on my list, too.
Bradford Jones I think I discovered this album through their live performance on Letterman.
Marvin O'Gravel Balloon-Face Love this album! Thanks for reminding us about it.

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