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Album Review: Ozomatli – Fire Away

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My previous experience with Ozomatli has been, shall we say, noisy. One of my first concert experiences many years ago was watching the large, half-dozen-plus member band open for Dave Matthews Band at Soldier Field. My feelings at that time were those of sun-stroke and nausea; a headache threatened to brew. Once Ozomatli took the stage, the headache became a full-blown, track-down-some-aspirin experience. All I remember is a lot of metallic noise and rhythmic drumming. Thus, I’ve got to say I’m both pleased and relieved to have heard Ozomatli’s newest release, Fire Away. Still noisy, but today in a pleasant way, Ozomatli’s sound is a mix of horns and cacophony, cheerful vocals and jam-rock stylings, a pleasant mélange of an album.

“Are You Ready” has all the characteristics of the Ozomatli I remember, but with a more unified rhythm and an upbeat tempo. This is good noise, the kind of you want to play at the summer block party you wish you were having right now.  The good times carry on throughout the album, particularly in “Nadas Por Free”, a rap-and-sass based number backed with triumphant horns and a fun marimba-themed sound that is poised to be a major single. This song is undeniable, pure fun.

Equally charming is “Love Comes Down”, a bouncy and upbeat heartwarmer that sounds like the end of a happy date movie. It’s also a showcase for the wide abilities of Ozomatli’s multiple talented vocalists. Even the wilder tunes here are enjoyable in the right mood: in a car traveling down the highway with all the windows down, for example, or at a lively summer party. Closer “Caballito” provides a little more of this pep. While a bit jarring coming immediately after “Love Comes Down”, this song blazes with Ozomatli’s unique personality and refuses to be ignored.

In that respect, Fire Away is a lot like the class clown, actually. Full of energy, wanting your attention, amusing, loud, and brassy, this music could be overwhelming at times, but if you’re in the mood for a party, you definitely want to invite this album.

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