Clandestino (Esperando la Ultima Ola )
1998: EMI/Virgin Records France H2 7243 8 45783 2 9
I heard this played a few times at my local pub (the exemplary McMenamins [Queen Anne]) and found myself a bit tantalized by its linguistic palette, as it mixes Spanish with a bit of French and English and sprinklings of other stuff (including Arabic, briefly, I think not many languages with that fluid vocal sound have such a guttural aspirant), but it was La vie à 2 that finally forced me to get a copy for myself.
The first time I heard La vie à 2 and couldnt turn my concentration back to what Id been reading, I scribbled a note to myself to follow up on upon returning to my apartmentsomething to the effect that there was a beautiful and sad recording by someone named Manu Chao (Mike, the manager that night, provided me with that answer right away) that had the mesmerizing magic of Peter Gabriels Zaar but in a more intimate setting. Hearing it once more not long afterwards, I wasnt long in actively hunting down a copy. I love this tracks mantra-like apologies and mea culpas it makes an interesting counterpart to Annie Lennoxs Twisted (on Bare) with the latters closing salve of I didnt mean to make you suffer / I didnt mean to make you cry / You didnt mean to make me suffer / You didnt mean to make me cry .
As for the rest of the album, while its a fascinating mélange, it largely keeps me at at least arms length: its a little heavy on the Mexicali sound, all those third-twinned vocals and cliché mariachi instrumentation/song structures, and I have never found Mexican music at all appealing. The heritage of this album is rich, I know, and it presents a sort of prismatic/kaleidoscopic reflection of the Central American musical world of the late 1990s (with heavy atmospheric sampling repeated in thematic threads throughout), but the world its tapping is one that holds little actual interest or attraction for me. So please dont read this as a negative review or a dismissal of this fascinating album: on the contrary, its a gorgeous and well-crafted work that just happens not to be my cup of tea (with the definite exception of La vie à 2, of course).
(An auxiliary note: my ear keeps hearing something in the background of this album overall, and a few times on La vie à 2 specifically, that makes me wonder if Chaos sampled Mouth Musics Birnam. I might have to explore that question just to resolve the matter.)
Comments © 2006 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.