Aug 062012

The assumed lifestyle issues (my own issues, that is) surrounding Los Lobos would become a major stumbling block. Even after I heard some of their offshoot band records and kind of liked what I heard, I couldn’t get past my own lack of ease with the sensual world and what I’d been projecting on the band. Even when I drank I was never the kind of guy who could get laid, for instance, just for the sake of getting laid. Partners had to meet my rigid, shallow physical standards and offer the hope for romance. I’m not proud of how I was, but I’m not going to pretend that music alone has been an inhibitor of my ability to ♥ Los Lobos. Inside I’m like a proper British guy. I strongly identify with many of the characters Alec Guiness played. Let’s not cut corners: being hung-up and didactic are general blues/roots-rock inhibitors.

For years I also had an aversion to the musical side of Latino culture. I still don’t easily take to salsa music, mojitos, and assorted Caribbean islands fashion, but being an East Coast guy I didn’t have a feel for Mexican culture as something distinct from the flashy stuff I’d associated with Hispanics from the various islands. About all I knew in my bones about Mexican culture was Mexican food, which I ♥, and Fernando Valenzuela, who was also A-1 Steak Sauce in my book. Years ago I saw some John Sayles film, I believe, that was set in Mexico. There were some scenes with cool Mexican folk tunes playing in the background. The music sounded amazing. It was nothing like the various forms of Caribbean music I’d heard over the years, all that swishy, gaudy, percussive stuff that, to my ears, sounded like Earth, Wind & Fire in Spanish. This Mexican folk music was loose and open, and guitar based. I could grab it. I pledged to track down the soundtrack to that movie, but I never found it. Fifteen years later I can’t even remember the name of the movie.

I continued to spin my Los Lobos records a couple of times a year, in hopes that I would one day unlock their joys. A Saturday afternoon a couple of months ago my wife and boys seemed in need of a unifying pick me up. I declared it would be Taco Night, always a favorite with our boys as it had been for me and my brother when our Mom declared Taco Night growing up.

“You guys do your own thing,” I declared, “and let me prepare a dinner that will blow your mind.”


  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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