LOBOS, LOS: Good Morning Aztlán: CD

You know, I often find myself in arguments with people as to whether Los Lobos could be considered a punk rock band. Sure, it’s no secret how they went from being a wedding band playing assorted sones and “Sabor a Mi” a gazillion times to sharing bills in Hollywood with the likes of the Blasters and Black Flag, but does that make them “punk”? Well, when the conversation rolls around (and, me being me, it inevitably does), this is what I say: Punk to me has always been about taking from “the rules” what you can and tossing the rest out with the garbage. Put more in a musical sense, either come up with something all your own, or rape and pillage what already exists and mix and match until you find a way to make it all your own, and never compromise quality for the sake of popularity. All of the “big names” in punk rock, from Dead Kennedys to Suicide to Black Flag to the Ramones to the Germs are perfect examples of that mentality. And so are Los Lobos. From their beginnings, Los Lobos have done exactly what they wanted, no matter the trend, no matter what style was “in” at any given moment. They have dipped into damn near every musical genre available to them, from son huasteco to cumbia to psychedelia, to soul to zydeco to punk to rockabilly to jazz, to hard rock to blues to norteño to art damage, becoming both an ethnomusicologist’s wet dream and worst nightmare. They are the living embodiment of the term “American music.” They have had a noble career that has spanned nearly thirty years, have released a body of work that exceeds in quality the works of all of rock’s luminaries and they’ve defiantly done it all on their own terms. They even throw their fans a curve now and then, as some will no doubt perceive this album. After years of melding and blending often disparate styles together, Los Lobos takes another look back at their roots (the last time being the phenomenal La Pistola y el Corazón [The Pistol and the Heart]) and give us twelve tracks of groove music steeped in soul, R&B, rock, and maybe a touch of cumbia to keep the boys in the ’hood happy. In most cases, a look back would be considered a regression, but with Los Lobos, it means an opportunity to plunder and revel once again in what was put away for a while, like favorite old toys picked up and put to new uses. Once again, they are dead-on in their explorations and while the initial reaction from the listener might be a resounding “huh?” after years of pushing the musical envelope, the party vibe will open ’em up and the strong, sometimes unorthodox hooks and great lyrics will keep ’em coming back for more. Good Morning Aztlán is a fine addition to an already mind-bogglingly good discography and proof positive that Los Lobos continue to follow their own path and create a few new niches along the way. In my book, you can’t get any more punk than that.

 –jimmy (Mammoth)