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Ozomatli Don't Mess With The Dragon Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

This album will have you crowing like like 'a cockerel on heat at dawn' apparently!

Michael Quinn 2007

A back to basics approach for their fourth studio album finds genre-defying Los Angeles-based musical polyglots Ozomatli momentarily treading water as they strive to follow the commercial success of their Grammy Award-winning Street Signs in 2004.

Consolidating a new-found stability (unusually, this new offering is a second album on the same label), the 10-piece collective give full vent to their signature penchant for splicing a helter-skelter array of genres and styles together in multi-colour mash-ups while focusing determinedly in on melody, structure and, as always, message.

As musically kaleidoscopic as you might expect, among the notable new elements insinuating their way into the mayhem-tinged mélange is the crisp, stretched banjo-like twang of the erhu (a Chinese two-string fiddle) in the pina colada-soaked, Dirty South meringue chant that serves as the album’s title track. In “La Segunda Mano” hip-hop and Mexican son jarocho elements coil around each other in sassy, stylish sprung rhythms while incendiary funk fuses with salsa-laden hip-hop in “City of Angels”, a super-charged hymnal to the band’s hometown.

Elsewhere, old-school Chicano R&B turns “After Party” into a swaying, feel-good, lighters-in-the-air anthem with “La Gallina”, an instant, neon-bright sing-along classic, no less immediately infectious.

If not as consistently accomplished or as impressive as Street Signs – which raised the bar so high that Ozomatli will have to go some (and then some!) to better it – Don’t Mess With The Dragon still showcases one of the most inventive, imaginative and politically aware of America’s contemporary music outfits to compelling effect.

Check out, too, the buoyantly defiant “Magnolia Soul” as it takes the Bush administration to task over its non-response to Hurricane Katrina and the pro-immigration and irresistibly chaotic “La Temperatura”, which injects itself straight into that part of your brain that says ‘Dance like you’ve never danced before’ and be prepared to crow along like a cockerel on heat at dawn!

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