Sunday, 18 October 2009

Review for Gobshout: Manu Chao - Bainonarena EP

Born in Spain and raised in France, Manu Chao is truly a renaissance man when it comes to music. The Baionarena Live EP may only contain four tracks, but within its eighteen and a half minute playtime there are easily identifiable influences from the worlds of Latino jazz, folk, rock, punk and ska – and they fit together very well indeed. Most listeners in the UK will have to make do with enjoying the music over the vocals because even though Chao does occasionally sing in English, most of this EP is in French and Spanish! (Makes sense given his background though doesn’t it?)

Clandestino opens as you’d expect any South American style music to open with a lovely acoustic guitar introduction along with a calm but bouncy beat on the drums and cymbals. The vocals are in Spanish so this reviewer unfortunately can’t dissect them. Despite this, the tune is catchy and the listener can hear the crowd at the Roman Amphitheatre in Bayonne singing the lyrics. (For all you geography fans out there, Bayonne is in the Basque region of South West France, close to the Spanish border) The first track finishes with a quiet solo on the guitar that completely fits with the style of the track.

Mr Bobby takes a different path. It’s faster, rawer and while still holding true to its Latino roots, it also encompasses some great rock guitar work and a ska beat that really complements the rest of the band. Its electric guitars this time and they sounds brilliant. Chao is an exceptionally talented master of the instrument. At over six minutes in length it’s a long track but all this does is further demonstrate the ability of Chao and his band.

The ska influence arguably increases in L’Hiver est La, the third track on the EP with a beat that will make the listener want to start skanking – or at least nod their head or move their feet – wherever they are. Combine this with some insanely quick instrumentals and possibly even an accordion in there somewhere and this is another upbeat catchy track. Unfortunately, the British listener may not be able to understand this, another track in a foreign language but the beat more than makes up for this. The song is crazily fast and somehow the tempo manages to increase further in the final minute of the five. Being in a band with this much energy must be extremely tiring but the crowd are obviously enjoying what’s in front of them.

‘Rainin’ in Paradize’ is the final track on the EP and well...instrumentally it’s probably the most crazy of the four and it definitely has the biggest punk influence. Everything is non-stop and high tempo – the drums, the vocals, the weird electronic sounds in the background and the excellent guitar work.

Manu Chao’s Banonarena Live EP certainly offers something completely different to anything else around at the moment. There is a massive amount of energy and the music is played very well, especially when you consider the sheer amount of genres that have been fused into these four tracks. Unless you can speak French or Spanish it’s unlikely you’ll get much out of the lyrics but in this case it really doesn’t matter. The music is so good it could be on its own. Definitely worth a listen if you love Latin American music, or ska, or punk or anything with a bit of energy!

Released through Because Music on 19.10.09

(Originally written for Gobshout)

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