Chicano Batman are quite possibly the most stylish looking band around. On duty, they are usually dressed in matching burgundy or dark blue vintage suits complete with bow ties and ruffle shirts. It is not an easy look to pull off and certainly no one in Britain can do it without being ironic. But that’s the difference. Chicano Batman are from Los Angeles. They look every inch as exotic as you might anticipate, bringing the rustle of the breeze through palm trees with them.
Freedom is Free is Chicano Batman’s third album. They have built a reputation as a tight four-piece honed through relentless touring. Having supported Jack White and Alabama Shakes, they are no strangers to big events. The strength and confidence of their live performance is something they have succeeded in capturing on this latest release.
Chicano Batman are sunny, sunny, sunny. They exude that jubilance and lust for life that the British only exhibit on holiday, for two weeks a year. This is exactly the type of soul and R&B music that they used to play in the Trent House pub in Newcastle, owners of the coolest jukebox in the land. Produced by Leon Michels, this album has all his trademark keyboards and horn arrangements. New York’s all-female Mariarchi Flor de Toloache also create coherence, providing vocal performances throughout.
There is little change in tempo in Freedom is Free. You can play it end to end basking in its red and yellow exuberance. Tracks such as ‘Passed You By’ are especially soulful; Bardo Martinez sings like a sweet Marvin Gaye. On ‘Jealousy’ the vocals skip along like a pebble on a smooth pond.
The first single from the album is ‘Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)’. Even when the subject matter is potentially upsetting, Chicano Batman stay upbeat and pragmatic. The song has an incredibly funky bassline and if this doesn’t get you dancing, I don’t know what will. It has plenty of sixties’ psychedelic keyboards for extra measure. ‘Freedom Is Free’ sounds like another single contender with its gloriously up-tempo rhythm.
A set of three songs are in Spanish to provide a Latino flavour: ‘La Jura (Prelude)’ ‘La Jura’ and ‘Flecha Al Sol’ (Arrow to the Sun). You are most definitely out in the hot streets at night dancing to these ones.
The most political track is ‘The Taker Story’. Almost spoken word on top of the female vocal, this is a classic complaint about the arrogance and selfishness of human beings. At times there are more syllables than will fit in the beat; Martinez engages with war and slavery like a modern Bobby Womack.
‘Freedom Is Free’ is a sociable album and not one to be experienced either alone or sitting down. So get up and let’s dance self-consciously about the living room as only we know how.
Freedom Is Free will be released on 3rd March 2017 through ATO Records.