The Hype: Surviving for 15 years on a steady mix of rhythmically infectious World music, LA's Ozomatli come out with Fire Away, their first album since 2007 as well as as their debut release on Downtown Records/ Mercer Street. The new record comes to us on one of the music world's holiest of holy days, 4/20. Surely a coincidence. To celebrate, LA fans can see the group play live at Amoeba Music in Hollywood at 6 p.m. If you can make it, we suggest you get your ass up there. Don't forget your Birkenstocks, a pair of comfortable shorts and a durable hacky sack.
The Judgment: Even though most Ozoheadz are sure to spark up a celebration for Fire Away, those who favor the band's socially conscious bent are in for a disappointing trip. Sure, their screeching horn section and percussive power are still enough to start a street parade, but it sounds like they've chosen to bring party favors instead of picket signs.
Opening with the flamenco-infused confetti explosion of "Are You Ready?" Ozo takes us on a frat boy-friendly romp that includes sugary, over-the-top fun of songs like "45" and "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." The devastatingly catchy chorus of their Jack Johnson collab "It's Only Paper" pretty much ensures that this album will be the soundtrack of many Spring Break booze cruises to come. Fortunately, the song "Elysian Persuasion," offers one redeeming slab of Parliament-style funk spliced with thumping bass, blustering horns, hand claps and vocals that sound like a fusion of George Clinton and Lenny Kravitz.
Though the album might be light on social commentary, "Malagasy Shock" and "Caballito," still embody the gritty and vibrant culture of Ozo's LA roots and their ability to skillfully navigate among banda, peppy ska, hip-hop and a lot of other stuff in between.
The slower, folk-oriented jams on the record are decent, though seemingly out of place on a record full of keg-stand anthems. "Love Comes Down" and "It's Only Time" are made with floaty acoustic melodies and a wash of simple vocal harmonies that provide textured, interesting lullabies--perfect after waking up from a hangover. Unfortunately, those looking for the contact high of Ozo's street-savvy political jams might have to wait another three years for their next album.
Download These: "Elysian Persuasion," "Malagasy Shock," Love Comes Down"