Tin Can Trust, Los Lobos
Shout Factory! USA
by Andrew Casillas
At a time when more music is being recorded and released than ever before, and with it the inevitable increase of accompanying niche-music review sites, it’s odd to think that Los Lobos, perhaps the most niche of all niche bands, were for a brief period one of the most popular young bands in America. I’m sure if Club Fonograma existed 20 years ago How Will the Wolf Survive? would have made our Top 10 Albums of the 1980’s list, while Kiko is one of the few albums I’m certain we would have given a 99 or 100 rating to.
Sadly, it’s 2010, and Los Lobos are now part of the old-wave of Latin music, doomed to be overlooked by the kids, and without the hipster cache that keeps Café Tacuba or even Los Tigres del Norte concerts slammed with college students. But for the patient and the enlightened, Los Lobos albums are something to be treasured, with the comfort that their plain-spoken songs of transition and conscious existence will never fall prey to the clutch of trends. Which is odd to say considering that their latest album, Tin Can Trust, centers around what is perhaps the most rampant of all trends—the current worldwide economic downturn.
Of course, this being a Los Lobos album, the band isn’t content to ante up everyone’s fears and anxieties with regard to the state of the economy. Instead, they present powerful storytelling that could take place at anytime, but use the news as a shade to give each track a greater prescience. Most obvious in this approach is the title track, which details a common man forced to collect cans and bottles to support he and his lady; and while he may wear only a 10-cent shirt, he can give his woman the “one thing a man can bring.” It’s actually a pretty funny song, even if you weren’t entirely positive that it’s not entirely a fictional story. Of course, not every song is about perseverance. There are also moments, like in “Burn It Down,” where the only available option is flight. But the reasons are never revealed, and any details are obscure at best. Is the narrator fleeing because of racism, money, betrayal, bad luck, or because he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die? We can’t know, which makes the quiet storm of this opener even more delicious, with its cutting guitar solo providing a perfect close to an appropriately fiery track.
But it’s not all heavy-handed in Tin Can Trust. There are still plenty of bluesy rave-up throwbacks (“Do the Murray”), slow-burning love songs (“Jupiter or the Moon”), and faux-traditional Mexican tributes (“Yo Canto” and “Mujer Ingrata,” each written by the esteemed Cesar Rosas); the latter group I’m a complete sucker for. How each affects you just depends on your listening habits, but it’s certain that something on this record will stick with you. Although I’d also recommend the closer, “27 Spanishes,” a thought-provoking yet slinky and downright professional cut that poetically ends with the sound of junk-like percussion.
So there it is, another good-sometimes-great Los Lobos album. Many of us in the Club Fonograma world, writers, readers, and musicians alike, should thank our lucky stars that a band like this can still make records this good and relevant at this stage of their careers.* And if you want to slight them for making trendless records, well then I gladly say “Yawn.”
*we should also thank God that David Hidalgo, Los Lobos front man, is still around to show us what a grade-A bad ass rock star should be like
Tin Can Trust, Los Lobos