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Manu Chao: Próxima Estación: Esperanza

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Manu Chao
Próxima Estación: Esperanza

Unfortunately the highly anticipated follow up to Chao's brilliant Clandestino falls short. Apparently this musical hobo has abandoned introspective lyrics for the time being in favor of the pleasures of marijuana and radio station samples. Of course, coming up with clever lyrics and singing in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and German (?) is no small feat either.

Disappointingly, this sounds more like a string of unfinished songs for the first album that could have served as B-sides on snappy remixes. Instead the powers that be decided to release a full-length album, featuring (Gasp!) some of the same music from Clandestino. If "Mr. Bobby sounds suspiciously like "Bongo Bong", well that's because it is! I'm troubled because he's too young to be dried up and it's not like he lacks creativity, depth, or originality. Instead of an ode to Bob Marley maybe he should look into covering "Redemption Song" next time around.

We have Chao's take on Caribbean reggae, some ska and Cuban rhythms along with Beck-like embellishments. But sometimes the onslaught of door bells ringing, cell phones and cartoon characters cackling is more ridiculous racket than creative and I keep looking up to see if someone's at the door.

Not to say the album is totally without merits. The opening "Merry Blues" does work as a fun reggae song, while "Bixo" is also catchy. "Me gustas tu" is a lark—a Spanish/French ditty with lyrics like "I like airplanes, I like you, I like to travel, I like you, I like marijuana, I like you", et cetera.

"Denia" is one of the more moving songs. Clever and sweet, "Le Rendez Vous" is a cool French/English relationship song. But then on "Papito", Chao lets out his inner chimpanzee in the sack. No to be outdone, "Homens (Men)" is a very cool Portuguese rap featuring the vocals of Valeria.

While not particularly astounding or profound, Próxima Estación...Esperanza is a day at the beach. Hopefully next time we'll catch up to him once the sun goes down.

  Anji Milanovic

     Manu Chao: Radio Bemba Sound System
     Manu Chao: Clandestino

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Manu Chao: Próxima Estación: Esperanza

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