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Rock - Released May 2, 1989 | Because Music

The highly influential Puta's Fever opened the door for a flood of young rock bands outside the English-speaking music world to fashion new hybrids that reflected their own musical cultures blended with popular worldwide sounds like rock and reggae. Manu Chao and company started from patchanka, a fast-paced French music hall style that sounds like speeded-up ragtime or hot jazz, and started singing songs in Spanish, French, and Arabic. The motor driving all the disparate elements on Puta's Fever is Santiago el Aguila Casariego's fierce drumming. And what an array of styles -- calliope-like keyboards, a Latin groove on "Patchanka," Tex-Mex on Joe "King" Carrasco's "Patchuko Hop," and dub reggae on "Peligro" -- pass through Mano Negra's manic mix. "Mano Negra" sounds like soundtrack music for a spaghetti western surf movie (really), while "Rebel Spell" marries a gospel chorus and hard rock guitar to a rapped street tale of shooting Brother Rasta dead. Puta's Fever is a triumph of eclecticism as a style where each song shifts into a different musical gear, and one key jumping-off point for the rock en español (or Latin alternative) school. Which doesn't mean that Mano Negra abandoned their original inspiration -- English lyrics dominate and there's a strong identification with a classic rock & roll outlaw stance in "Rock 'N' Roll Band" and the '50s-rooted "Devil's Call." ~ Don Snowden

Rock - Released May 1, 1989 | Because Music

The debut from Mano Negra is more than a band wanting to be the Clash. It's the sound of a band becoming the Clash (it compresses all the musical sprawl of Sandinista! into a single disc), then going on to find their own sound, most especially with tracks like "Indios de Barcelona" and "Mala Vida," both of which would become staples of their repertoire. "Killin' Rats" is a perfect mix of hip-hop and rock, while their take on the traditional "Rock Island Line" (the song that launched the skiffle movement of the '50s) flows through several musical styles in the course of three minutes. There's nothing that complex about it, but the best rock & roll has always been simple. But there's an undeniable fire about Patchanka -- they sound as if they've just discovered rock, and they play as if their lives depended on it, with Chao singing (probably one of the few to take Joe Strummer as a vocal model) and the rest of the band offering soccer-style chanting as a background. They're not afraid of anything, they're immortal, and they swagger -- and they're often funny, as in the over-the-top fake applause that permeates "Mano Negra," the album's opener. Not everything works -- two of the English-language tracks, "Baby You're Mine" and "Takin' It Up" (which slows the pace -- a bad idea on an album that had been merrily careening to that point), seem like sops to an Anglo market, although the second half of the latter song does pick up with some fake rockabilly. There are plenty of touches of ska, as on "Bragg Jack," which fits in with the grab-bag music ethic, and the album never runs out of steam, a bravura piece of energy and invention, even putting a punk hold on flamenco with the closing "Salga la Luna." But perhaps its most remarkable achievement is that in 1988, when acid house was rendering guitars obsolete all over Europe, Mano Negra could make such a vital record that made rock important again. ~ Chris Nickson

Rock - Released December 26, 2005 | Because Music


Rock - Released April 1, 1991 | Because Music

King of Bongo showcases Mano Negra as a straightforward rock band, downplaying its trademark eclecticism and turning up the guitars. The manic rhythmic drive is throttled back, and the broad range of styles the group explored on Puta's Fever only pop up sporadically to spice the rock context. The almost all-English lyrics embrace the outlaw rocker stance, and the material is largely geared toward emphasizing Mano Negra's connection with the punk side of the rock spectrum. The ranting rave-up "Letter to the Censors" isn't that far from Motörhead, and the acoustic guitar and organ on "Out of Time Man" has a feel close to Iggy Pop's "The Passenger." "Don't Want You No More" even lopes along at a country & western-flavored clip. Mano Negra can rock hard and convincingly -- notably on the steady, rolling title track or when blending dub reggae and rap elements into "Bring the Fire" -- and the music still offers much more variety than the rock norm here. While King of Bongo isn't a bad album (and its English-language rock orientation might be easier for many people to connect with), it is the least distinctive of Mano Negra's career. ~ Don Snowden

Rock - Released May 10, 1994 | Because Music


Rock - Released November 10, 1992 | Because Music

As if Mano Negra records weren't wild and wooly enough in the studio, to have them recorded live in front of a packed house in Kawasaki, Japan, where the crowd can't get enough, is almost too much to bear on CD. This set not only has every Negra classic on it you can image -- "Magic Dice," "County Line," "King Kong Five," "Indios de Barcelona," "El Sur," "Mad Man's Dead," four versions of "Mano Negra," "Pachuko Hop," "Mala Vida," "Junky Beat," "The Rebel Spell," and "Killing Rats" -- but every version here is the definitive one. The crazy rockabilly, swing, ska, polka, mariachi, punk, bluesed-out energetic fireball that is Mano Negra live has lost nothing in translation to this CD. A set that is seamless from beginning to end (and unedited), the sound and balancing are near perfect and all the edges are readily apparent to the human ear. There is energy, fun, excitement, pathos, derangement, sickness, blood, sex, and dope oozing from every cut here. Enough said. ~ Thom Jurek