Los Lobos are still as good as ever, hitting us with thirteen tracks on their killer, thirteenth full-length album, The Town And The City. The band expands their roots-rock sound by adding darker tones and themes. Where Kiko has a psychedelic dream vibe to it, The Town And The City has more of an experimental blues feel, which allows them to still hit hard and rock as they have done in the past.
The Town And The City opens with the dark, mellow blues of “The Valley” and “Hold On”. Both have solid drums and percussion and are filled with light guitar picking (both acoustic and electric) and background sounds that help to set the mood. The lyrics here are also linked in their solemn tone and by David Hidalgo’s easygoing and mournful yet passionate vocals. “Hold On” describes how, in a sunrise, things can change and how easy it can be to slip into a world of abuse, be it self or substance. I dig this moody number with its tribal drums and chorus of “killing myself to survive”. It hits the working man hard, making you reflect on why and how you can get up every morning to continue doing what you think is right.
With the third track, “The Road to Gila Bend”, things start to jump and the band kicks into the house rockers that they are; the drums thump, the bass is solid, and the guitar soars. Hidalgo’s vocals pick up a bit as well, as they always do on such songs. The lyrics are about the twist and turns on life’s road — how it seems there is no end and no place to lay one’s head.
“Chuco’s Cumbia” is the first of three songs in Spanish, each with a different feel and vibe. Cesar Rosas delivers it with authenticity in Pachuco Calo, a Spanish-English slang developed by zoot-suited Mexican-American hepsters in the 1930s and ‘40s. The song reflects the title, a danceable cumbia beat filled with swinging horns and Rosas’ vocal pep. “Luna” is the band’s take on the traditional sounds of Mexico, pushing it into something all their own, twisting the acoustic guitar and bass just far enough to keep a psychedelic feel to the song. “No Puedo Mas” is a song where you can hear some of Los Lobos’ “Eastside sound” influences, from such local bands as Malo and El Chicano. Heavy organ, hard-edged electric guitars, funky bass lines, and Rosas’ Chicano soul vocals fuel the track.