Manu Chao

La Radiolina (Nacional Records)

Trying to define the work of Manu Chao — who has finally followed up on his 2001 disc, Próxima Estación: Esperanza, after a six-year hiatus — is certainly not easy. The Franco-Spanish musician challenges the listener using lyrics written in four languages and beats that reflect complete open-mindedness. The artist expects no less from his audience.

On La Radiolina, various sounds build on his rock roots. In "A Cosa," Malian guitarist Amadou Bagayoko lends his talents in a laid-back tune that sounds as if the musicians were gathered at a Latin American sidewalk café. On "Politik Kills," Chao denounces political corruption with blunt words that leave nothing to interpretation: "Politik needs force, politik needs cries, politik needs lies." Listen also to "Amalucada Vida" ("Crazy Life"), a Portuguese-language ballad about a woman who twists the narrator's life to the point of obsession, leaving him devastated and unable to go on.

Because of its sonic complexities, La Radiolina is a disc that needs time to sink in. But it is nevertheless a brilliant piece of work, a welcome return to the notion of rock as art.

 
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