Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Worldwide Music Guide

Manu Chao tours the globe's issues, using three languages and one guitar

***1/2

MANU CHAO
La Radiolina
Nacional/Because

In 2001, Euro rocker Manu Chao celebrated his fortieth birthday with the most miraculously accessible album in the history of "world music." Proxima Estacion: Esperanza, a buoyant, melodically linked rhythm suite in three languages, now seems such a natural fact that you may listen a while to its very-long-awaited follow-up before you remember that Proxima Estacion too had to sink in. But eventually La Radiolina's more guitar-based sonics will feel inevitable too, especially once you follow the same dynamic riff through three consecutive songs up front. The attention getter, especially in Anglophone America, will be "Rainin in Paradize," which curtly explains why country after country in Africa and the Middle East is "no good place to be." But anyone with some high school French can parse "Besoin de la Lune"'s two-minute catalog of simple human needs just after that--and then wonder what the hell language "El Kitapena" is in (Catalan? Galician Portuguese?). Most of the second half is in Spanish, including an anti-fame song and one that seems to reference heavy rains in Ecuador. Its true subject, however, is the return of that riff--which definitely makes you want to learn more about Ecuador.

Rolling Stone, Sept. 6, 2007