Aug 062012

I want to ♥ Los Lobos.

I want to ♥ Los Lobos. For years I was happy to have no interest in them. I didn’t care for the movie La Bamba and quickly tired of hearing the band’s cover of Ritchie Valens‘ big hit, a song that had already worn out its welcome through its near-“novelty song” status since childhood. I didn’t tune into the roots-rock thing. I associated them with The Blasters and that album cover of the first Blasters record, the one with the cartoon image of the big, sweaty face. Phil Alvin’s voice gave me the willies. Somehow his voice colored my initial ability to ♥ Los Lobos.

After the band had been around for years I finally heard 2 songs that first made me appreciate the band: “Kiko and the Lavender Moon,” off the Mitchell Froom (of all producers!)-produced Kiko (1992) and a cover of the Grateful Dead (of all bands!) song “Bertha.” I’ve always had a soft spot for “Bertha.”

Years passed and I kept trying to get into Los Lobos. They were musicians’ musicians, the kind of musicians my uncle might have turned me onto back in my childhood, when he let me paint Day-Glo designs on his bedroom wall while listening to 8-tracks of Traffic, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, et al… I bought Kiko and a 2-CD collection of Los Lobos in the late-90s. The former was OK; the collection had a live version of “Bertha” but too much of that jangly stuff from the early albums and live blooz jams, the sort of thing Stevie Ray Vaughn might do, the sort of thing fat guys with ponytails and soul patches might dig.


  13 Responses to “I Want to ♥ Los Lobos”

  1. 2000 Man

    I found How Will the Wolf Survive at a Goodwill for 30 cents a few months ago. It looks brand new. I don’t know if I played it yet or if I just stuck it in the “take to the store for credit” pile. I like The Blasters, though. I think Dave Alvin is supremely cool. Phil is okay, but Dave is the man.

  2. bostonhistorian

    Los Lobos? Los No-gos. Can’t stand them.

  3. Please explain. Do extra-musical factors play into your feelings on the band?

  4. bostonhistorian

    No, there isn’t anything extra-musical going on. I just find them dull beyond words. I don’t think they’re particularly oustanding at any of the styles they work in (with one caveat: I don’t know enough about traditional Mexican music to make a call on that) and their production usually seems wrong, especially when they’re trying to do vintage sounding material. About the best thing I can say about them is that they’re earnest and competent.

  5. I really loved them during the Kiko/Latin Playboys era. That’s the era I’ll pull from on the odd occasion. Subsequent albums got spottier and spottier, till sometime in the mid-2000s, I pretty much gave up on their new music.

    One thing this post overlooks — understandably — is that the band got a odd shot of hipness in the mid-’90s. They worked with Tom Waits, Cibo Matto, and Money Mark (the Beasties’ keyboard player). SPIN Magazine loved them during this period.

    I do think David Hidalgo is one of those naturally gifted players — just a guy who can’t help but be musical. The band’s current bar-band stuff does not do him justice. At least he still gets to sit in with Waits, Dylan, Costello, etc. I enjoyed seeing him play guitar with Waits on Letterman recently.

    And I actually miss the days when Louie Perez would play drums — particularly live — because he wasn’t very good. Him playing behind the beat tempered those bar-band leanings. Los Lobos are at their least promising when they’re wholly competent.

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    I’ve always liked “Will the Wolf Survive?”. Much of that album fulfills the Bruce Springsteen roots-anthem promise for me.

  7. diskojoe

    Mr. Mod: I also have that 2-CD set of theirs, which I picked up mostly because the band are FOBs (Friends of Barrence’s) from back in the day. Every time they are in the Boston area, Barrence almost always goes & joins in an encore, like this example from last year, covering a song that doesn’t get played too much @ Fenway this year:

  8. bostonhistorian

    Barrence is always worth the price of admission.

  9. machinery

    was that movie “Men with guns”? That is one of my all-time favorite movies, btw. There’s a scene it that movie that is so chilling I can still recall it even though I haven’t seen it in awhile.

    And, no I never got into Los Lobos. For a bunch of really large guys, they seemed very wimpy to me, musically.

  10. That might have been the one – that or a scene in Lone Star.

    I know what you mean about them being large men who play small. That was an initial disappointment I had with their records.

  11. misterioso

    Los Lobos–I mean, I don’t hate ’em or anything. But the reverence for them has always provoked a “huh?”

  12. I give them a solid B. They have enough going on that they can tailor their set to their audience and do so on the fly as I witnessed at the Cape Cod Melody Tent a few years ago. They played some weirder Kiko stuff and when they rightfully perceived they were losing the interest of the crowd (comprised of unhip vacationers just looking for a some mainstream entertainment), they quickly switched to the La Bamba stuff.

  13. Also, I really like their first album. It’s all traditional Mexican music and it was recorded for 2or 3 thousand bucks. Not really rock but very cool.

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