Listening to Ozomatli’s “Fire Away”, I couldn’t help but remember vacationing in Cartagena, Colombia. In the heart of the elegant old city centre, in the bar “Casa de Cerveza”; the band played furiously, beautiful women dancing as far as the eye could see, alcohol easily within grasp and flowing without hinder. It was summertime at its best and if Ozomatli was performing that night, the outcome would no doubt be the same.
That being said, you must remember the atmosphere involved. Here I am defrosting my windshield in the mornings to melt coated ice, staring at grey skies on a 40 degree day; predictably, I’m not feeling so festive.
Ozomatli has described their music as an embracement of the variety of culture in its home Los Angeles. With such a range, the closest term I would feel comfortable using is Latin Funk. Just like Los Angeles, “Fire Away” is an album in motion, nimble and unpredictable in terms of pace and style. “Are You Ready?” starts us off with its upbeat tempo and kinetic percussions. Even if a tad bit over the top yet jubilant, “45” and “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” follows closely by and continues these frat boy keg-stand anthems. “It’s Only Paper” and “Malagasy Shock” cultivate that rich 70’s era funk that is sprinkled in each danceable jam. The horn section is a pleasant welcome considering an admittedly noisy, nearly obnoxious, sound production on the album.
Before “Fire Away”, Ozomatli were well regarded as social commentators in L.A and the West Coast through their music and in the community. It is respectively quiet this time around instead focusing on their vibrant tone. This, ultimately, is a noble choice. With an album full of Spring Break party refrains, it would be regrettably forced and lost in transition beyond the faithful core.
“Fire Away” is a case of bad timing but excellent location. This album is undoubtedly reminiscent of summer. While L.A. is mostly sunny all year long, here in the Midwest in mid November, we aren’t feeling the same vibes. Not to discredit Ozomatli completely. I’m sure when June/July comes around and I have a few friends over and select beverages lying around; I could see “Fire Away” finding its way to the speakers.