Ozomatli – Fire Away

January 01, 1970

(Mercer Street/Downtown)

 

www.mercerstreetrecords.com

 

When Ozomatli first appeared in the mid-‘90s, its masterful
mix of Latin, African-American, Indian, Afro-Cuban, ska and punk musics sounded
so fresh it made nearly everything around seem stale and moribund. Cut to
nearly 15 years later and the glow has diminished considerably.

 

The band’s fifth album, Fire
Away
runs short on the almost dizzying creativity and rabid energy of its best
work. Tunes like “45,” the ballad “It’s Only Time” and “Are You Ready?” lack
personality, sounding as if they could have come from the catalogs of any
number of Ozo imitators, rather than the originator. “It’s Only Paper,” a
co-write with Jack Johnson, has more in common with its co-author’s beach bum
melody and aggressive vapidity than its performer’s style, and the enervated
cover of the Pogues’ “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah” is simply puzzling. The Stax/Volt
groove and provocative message of “Gay Vatos in Love” and punk/pop/salsa pep of
“Malagasy Shock” (both from the apparently still fertile mind of guitarist Raul
Pacheco) and the psychedelic cloud enveloping “Love Comes Down” show signs of
life, but they’re not enough to balance out the blandness of the rest of the
record.

 

Whether it’s the result of so many years of roadwork having
sanded away the band’s sharp edges or just a creative deficit when it came time
to record, Fire Away is the sound of Ozomatli
running on fumes.

 

Standout Tracks:
“Gay Vatos in Love,” “Malagasy Shock” MICHAEL TOLAND

 

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