Latino rock has a long and illustrious history, from Ritchie Valens in the '50s to War and Santana in the '70s, and Los Lobos and Alejandro Escovedo in the '80s. Contemporary pan-genre stylists Ozomatli clearly owe a debt to their forefathers. On Fire Away, their fifth full-length, Ozomatli pay that debt forward with a polyrhythmic vengeance. Formed 15 years ago in East L.A. and named after an ancient Aztec dancing god, Ozomatli have always been a melting pot in membership as well as musical sensibility, incorporating salsa, samba, funk, hip-hop, dancehall and a dozen other influences filtered through the band's love and respect for Carlos Santana.
On Fire Away, Ozomatli embraces an even broader rainbow of styles, resulting in one of the most diverse and exciting albums in the band's catalog. Opener "Are You Ready?" mixes Latin tradition with a careening indie-rock vibe, and sounds like an ass-shaking summit meeting between Los Lobos and XTC. From the heavy funk/hip-hop swing of "Elysian Persuasion" to the '60s Stax groove of "45," and the brilliant '60s Latin pop stroll (and lyrical tolerance) of "Gay Vatos in Love," every song on Fire Away exudes an infectious dance-floor energy, whether slow or fast, that is over way too soon. If Ozomatli has a message on Fire Away, it's got to be "get up, get out, get real, get rhythm." Heed the call. — Baker