Turn That Noise Down - Los Lobos

So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1992 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan takes a look at Kiko...

I have a confession: I neither bought nor listened to this album back in 1992. In fact, I hadn’t listened to it up until this week, when it pitched up on our retrospective list for May 1992. To be honest, I didn’t really know that much about the band either - only that they were Mexican and had done that excellent cover of Ritchie Valens’ rock n roll classic La Bamba for a soundtrack a few years back [erm… that film was in 1987 - Ed] so I had a few preconceptions about what to expect from the band and the album.

I was wrong. Wrong on all counts. Firstly, the band are not Mexican at all - they’re Californian, from LA, although a lot of their earlier music (they’ve been on the go since the 70s) pulled influences from Mexican folk music. Secondly, this album is very different to any of their early work, bearing barely a whiff of the Tex Mex mariachi sound with which I associated the band in my head, so Kiko was not at all what I expected and I’m both annoyed at myself and ashamed of myself that I’ve spent thirty years not listening to it.

There’s a very eclectic mix in the song styles on the album with unusual instrumentation choices adding an extra dimension to its highly experimental feel. Some songs, like This Train Don’t Stop Here and Reva’s House, have a rockabilly/country strict tempo rhythm with a wonderful walking double bass sound undercutting the steel guitar and Hammond organ. There’s a properly folky feel to some songs, like When the Circus Comes and Two Janes, and the harp in Saint Behind the Glass is highly unexpected but beautifully integrated. There are songs that remind me of other songs, like Arizona Skies which could have been on The Princess Bride soundtrack, and there’s a 20s/30s Vaudeville feel to the song that gives the album its name, Kiko and the Lavender Moon, which is bizarrely reminiscent of the sand dance executed by Wilson Keppel and Betty. There’s even properly bluesy rock tracks like Wicked Rain and Just a Man. It’s only in the very last track that the Mexican influence shines true with something that sounds like Goodnight Irene, just in Spanish.

My favourite song on the whole album though has to be Angels with Dirty Faces - from the incongruous accordion to the tingy triangle to the distorted guitars it’s just a marvellously psychedelic mixture. Rest assured it, and the rest of this brilliant album, will be on my regular listening list from now on. Highly recommended.

Image - Amazon

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