Sunday, July 09, 2006

Condiment Rock

I’ve never understood why the Latin Playboys are not more famous and more revered than they are. As superband sideprojects, they all had better, or more lucrative things to do, I guess. The Latin Playboys were two dudes from Los Lobos, David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, who teamed up with Tchad Blake and producer Mitchell Froom. It's true, their records weren't entirely coherent or consistent, but that was part of the charm.

The Latin Playboys were masters of the miniature, rarely making a tune over three minutes. They have that lurching, slightly creepy, funny-boot-wearing, hair-slicked-back, Tom Waits, Cuban-Chinese, loco polyglot thing going. They only made two records, both of which have some excellent moments. The music is Tex-Mex roots pastiche threaded with bits of woozy Bollywood synth strings, mambo/funk drum machine patterns, weird Jon Hasselly droning brass, bits of Beck-like mercado-mix, and then at moments it’s like Eric Clapton being blissfully drowned out by the music from a street festival in Juarez, and then they’ll drop in a little Carlos Castenada/Jim Morrison spoken-word vision-questing (you can skip that). It all gets slathered with an admirable layer of retardation.

These are some good ones. The bass line (which is basically all there is) on “Manifold de Amour” is just lovely. “Mustard” seems to be about mustard, one of the better condiments. I love the crippled Congolese guitar line, the clopping drum programming, the sawing fiddle and the flood of mellotron in the middle. “Viva la Raza” is a bonus.

The Latin Playboys – “Manifold de Amour”

The Latin Playboys - “Mustard”

The Latin Playboys - “Viva la Raza”

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