Fire Away - Ozomatli

Downtown Records

On Fire Away, Ozomatli have pulled the trigger without a clear shot, and to continue the allusion, while they may not have scored a bull’s-eye, they certainly put it in the kill zone. After four albums bubbling with Latin/Urban/Rock intensity and brief flourishes into Middle Eastern and Brazilian rhythms and modes, it appears the band, while diverse to a fault, felt they had to change things up this time around. Exactly how it was all going to turn out may not have been clear but, the opening taunt, Are You Ready? blows it up right in front of your ears. Imagine taking a dozen or so samples of ethno-traditional rhythms, beats and breaks, horns and random party noises, throwing them in a blender and squeezing it all through a lo-fi filter. The fact that it comes together with any consistency is testament to the band's ability to creatively juggle large arrangements. The tracks that follow are decidedly un-Ozo and distinctly old skool with props to the Motown sound, early ska, boogaloo and funk. The LA globalista activists who began working the musical mix that fills the evening air of Sunset Boulevard seem to have assimilated a New York vibe as well. They've sanded off the high gloss of previous recordings for a grittier presentation this time, adding at least the sense of their infamous live performance buzz and a good deal honest soul. All adjectives aside, Ozo are having a lot of fun with Fire Away and so will listeners. Titles run the gamut from mysterious intrigue, 'Elysian Persuasion' to fun with Spanish, 'Nadas For Free' to sly social comment, 'Gay Vatos In Love', to sheer butt-shaking nonsense, 'Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah'. I hope Ozoheads respond to the new direction on Fire Away. Change for change's sake isn't always a good idea, but hey, it's worth a shot.