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Ozomatli
Don't Mess With The Dragon
Concord Records
www.ozomatli.com


Ozomatli's Don't Mess With The Dragon starts off with the band's strong points; ass shaking music with catchy melodies. There's something about the chorus of the opening track "Can't Stop" that is similar to the 1984 song "Break My Stride". Maybe it's the "can't stop now/got to keep moving" lyrics meshed over really catchy pop music. Either way, it works…just like the rest of the album.

Over the years, Ozomatli has seen many incarnations. This LA based nonet has always had a talent for writing pop/hip hop/rock songs with Latin flare, but with this album, they seem to be expanding their genres into rock, ska, and punk. "After Party" is a ridiculously catchy, mid-tempo piece full of whoops and hollering in the background. It's hard not to imagine Ozomatli recording sessions as being one big party. "Magnolia Soul" is another perfectly constructed, half rapped, half sung, pure pop song. Organ swirls and chunky choruses drive the lyrics "let the good times roll". Ozomatli spares no expense on Dragon's production. Songs are chock full of electric guitar, bass, drums, drum machines, backup singers, organ, horns, piano, and vinyl scratching.

"La Gallina" is the first of 3 songs entirely in Spanish, showing that Ozomatli hasn't forgotten where it started. This track has production and melody that makes it sound like international superstar Manu Chao composed it. Another Spanish piece, "Violeta", is the only ballad on the album, but despite the slower tempo it doesn't lack strong drumbeats and grove. "When I Close My Eyes" is a new style for Ozomatli with a ska/punk flavor that sounds very mid 90's and is evidence that Ozomatli is not drawing inspirations from current music.

There's no lyrical subtlety with Ozomatli records. The song titles alone reveal their straightforward verses. The one consistent factor with Ozomatli is that the music is designed to make you dance. It's packed with instruments, crowd cheers, sound effects and no song goes past 4 minutes. If you're still trying to find that perfect summer record, you just found it.

- Jon Murray


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