The Austin Chronicle

SXSW Thursday Record Reviews

Freedom Is Free (ATO)

Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, March 17, 2017, Music

Produced by former Dap-Kings saxophonist and Truth & Soul impresario Leon Michels, the third album from Chicano Batman represents a huge leap forward for an act that sounds like no other. Freedom Is Free brings the L.A. psych-soul outfit's classic stylings to the forefront without losing their eclectic mix of influences, most notably low-rider oldies and Brazilian tropicalia. A political undercurrent runs through the hazy, sun-warped title track and bluntly on "The Taker Story," a stinging rebuke of human greed that invokes Fela Kuti, Gil Scott-Heron, and spiritual jazz yodeler Leon Thomas. Often delivered in an off-key falsetto, the vocal stylings of Bardo Martinez aren't technically sound, but like the band itself they overflow with warmth and infinite charm. (Thu. 16, Cedar Street Courtyard, 10:30pm; Fri. 17, Lucille, 1am)


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