Manu Chao
Clandestino/Proxima Estacion...Esperanza

Released 1998 on Virgin France
Reviewed by Spaceship mark, 31/10/2002ce

A way away from loud guitars and the like Manu Chao is still a very special man. Huge in Europe and Latin America, only the UK is yet to embrace the man who has (for once with due thought and consideration) been dubbed the next Bob Marley.
Singing and playing in a number of bands in the 80's and 90's and making his name with Mano Negra, Manu Chao has always been one to take on board any music and regurgitate it as he sees fit.
Years of touring in South America gave a distinct Latin edge to Mano Negra's reggae, ska and rock-a-billy influenced sound. Indeed the band once toured South America by turning up in ports on a boat and playing to whoever was about.
After the demise of Mano Negra, Chao travelled extensively, battered acoustic and portastudio in bag and the recordings made during this period became 'Clandestino'.
From the opening title track, through Bongo Bong\Je ne t'aime plus, Mama Call, Welcome to Tijuana and the rest, Chao's mixture of Spanish, French and English lyrics over bontempi and acoustic led arrangements augmented with all sorts of 'found sounds' became the backdrop of the summer of 1999 all over France and, I guess, the rest of Western Europe.
Clandestino (the song) is still regularly played on French radio and the huge tour that was to follow spawned the next album.
'Proxima Estacion...Esperamza' (2001) is more of a sister album than a follow-up to 'Clandestino'. Indeed many of the songs use almost identical backing tracks to some on 'Clandestino', albiet augmented with extra horns or pollished up a bit. It is on this album that Chao's apparent fascination with Spanish language radio really begins to rear its head. Samples of dialogue taped in various countries are splattered allover this disjointed but joyous record.
Highlights include the cry for political sanity 'Mr. Bobby' ("Hey Bobby Marley, sing something good for me, this world go crazy, it's an emergency") and the ridiculous to the Jonathon Richman proportions of 'Me Gustas Tu' in which Chao declares his love of everything from his fridge to the mountains to marijuana (a recuring theme) to lasagne to his get the picture.
Never taking any true political standpoint and yet giving of the aura of a man who just wants freedom, happiness and sanity (and marijuana) for everyone, Manu Chao deserves to be heard. And once you've fallen in love with these two records buy 'Radio Bemba Sound System' (2002)which has been heralded as the best live record in its (v.loose) genre since 'Live at the Lyceum'.

Reviews Index