These Wolves Thrive
Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s been more than 30 years since Los Lobos formed in East Los Angeles, and on its 13th full-length release, The Town and The City, the highly respected band shows no signs of resting on its well-earned laurels.The Town and The City spins tales of immigrant life, a topic made more urgent by the current climate regarding immigration in America. But the album is no broad diatribe; rather, the songs are personal and affecting, even when their themes take on universal significance, as contemporary Bruce Springsteenâ€šÃ„Ã´s songs often do.
Sonically, the band uses a more low-key version of its traditional mixture of roots rock, R&B, and Mexican rhythms (including some Tex-Mex), occasionally throwing in a bit of distortion to punctuate a particular songâ€šÃ„Ã´s theme. Combined with powerful imagery and lyrical depth, the effect is at times luminous (opener â€šÃ„ÃºThe Valley,â€šÃ„Ã¹ a poignant song about farm laborers), at times harsh (â€šÃ„ÃºHold On,â€šÃ„Ã¹ a bluesy number seemingly about fighting addictions: â€šÃ„ÃºAnd if I make it to the sunrise/Do it all over again/â€šÃ„Â¶/Killinâ€šÃ„Ã´ myself to surviveâ€šÃ„Ã¹).
However, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s not all serious. â€šÃ„ÃºChucoâ€šÃ„Ã´s Cumbiaâ€šÃ„Ã¹ is a fun, danceable tune sung in calo, the Spanish-English slang used by Mexican zoot-suiters. â€šÃ„ÃºLunaâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºThe Road to Gila Bendâ€šÃ„Ã¹ are the standout tracks, teeming with life, beauty, and musical touches Los Lobos does so well, such as the maracas and horns in the Spanish-language â€šÃ„ÃºLunaâ€šÃ„Ã¹ or the rootsy blues guitar of the toe-tappinâ€šÃ„Ã´ â€šÃ„ÃºGila.â€šÃ„Ã¹ The latter contains deceptively simple lyrics reminiscent of those on Tom Pettyâ€šÃ„Ã´s Highway Companion: â€šÃ„ÃºCan they see me coming?/Do they know Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m running?â€šÃ„Ã¹
Los Lobos could easily coast on the goodwill and critical acclaim its built up over the decades, but with The Town and The City, the band continues to challenge itself and its audience.