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
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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