I wanted to play authentic Mexican folk music while cooking, but realized I had none. Then I remembered that the Los Lobos comp included their debut Mexican folk EP. I played that while cooking, putting in the extra effort of frying the corn tortillas, making my own salsa, etc. Los Lobos sounded really good while I cooked dinner, both the folk stuff and even the stuff from How Will the Wolf Survive?, the album I’d let be tarnished by the band’s association with The Blasters. My wife and kids dug the music I was playing, so I played it again while we ate.
Dinner was awesome, if I do say so myself. We talked and laughed and crammed tacos down our throats. I associated my gut and greasy hair with the guts and greasy hair of the members of Los Lobos, even the guts and greasy hair of their fans. I thought about how cool Fernando Valenzuela was. I got more pissed than usual at conservatives who want to build a wall along our border with Mexico. For the first time ever I felt like taking a trip to the Tex-Mex border and getting a taste of what real life was like down there.
I realized how cool and novel (to me) California’s Mexican-American culture was whenever I visited the West Coast. I began playing that Los Lobos comp in the weeks leading up to our recent vacation along the California coast. When we got to California I ate Mexican food at just about every opportunity. I’m not a breakfast guy, but huevos rancheros was an easy choice whenever presented. This whole Los Lobos thing was beginning to make sense. Even the blooz workouts sounded better. I cannot yet say that I ♥ Los Lobos, but I’m down with them. It’s time I find a cool collection of Mexican folk music.
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.
Los Lobos? Los No-gos. Can’t stand them.
Please explain. Do extra-musical factors play into your feelings on the band?
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.
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.
I’ve always liked “Will the Wolf Survive?”. Much of that album fulfills the Bruce Springsteen roots-anthem promise for me.
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:
Barrence is always worth the price of admission.
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.
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.
Los Lobos–I mean, I don’t hate ’em or anything. But the reverence for them has always provoked a “huh?”
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.
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.