La Radiolina (Nacional)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Sept. 14, 2007
Manu ChaoLa Radiolina (Nacional)
On the occasion of his previous studio release, 2001's translucent Proxima Estación Esperanza, in an interview with trendsetting indie wire KCRW, Manu Chao's globe-trotting existence had brought him to the conclusion that, "There's not a place where things are going better." At least hope – Esperanza – floats on said sophomore solo disc. Six tortuous years later, not a thing has gotten better, and a darker world clouds La Radiolina, which most resembles Chao's 2002 live Radio Bemba Sound System in its patchwork approach to song, tempo, and politicizing. That's Euro-folk, skank, and Mano Negra, respectively. Opener "13 Días" might rumble expertly next to Bob Dylan's "Seven Days" on a road-trip mix. Otherwise, where Esperanza left off with the infinite sadness of "Infinita Tristeza," Radiolina confesses its "Tristeza Maleza" up front, lashing out immediately afterward with the anti-imperialist "Politik Kills." Initial single "Rainin in Paradize" then opens its pummeling floodgates and east of Eden never felt like such a permanent address. Desgraciadamente, that's when Radiolina smashes against the wall. Fragments – stadium chants – rather than songs compound a larger issue of "Rainin in Paradize" drenching the rest of the album. On mosher "El Hoyo," the "Rainin" riff yields a rainbow, doubly so in the Belgium soundcheck found among Radiolina's visual enhancements. The same can't be said for "The Bleedin Clown" or "Panik Panik," and by the song's alternate version as bonus track "Mama Cuchara" and its rejoining knock-off "Siberia," the "Rainin" has gone on long enough. Other sincere songwriting attempts ("Me Llaman Calle," "A Cosa") simply aren't up to snuff, "La Vida Tómbola" excepted as the bookend accounting of soccer celebrity Diego Maradona begun in Chao's seminal punk band Mano Negra with "Santa Maradona." Backer "Mala Fama" hints at the rock en Español opera begging to be staged on the Argentine fútbalista, also echoing Chao's Latin American calling card "Clandestino." The French/Spanish shaman's initial chant, Clandestino remains world concern made personal, and nearly a decade later, little relief comes from tuning in to frequencies on La Radiolina.