David Hidalgo, Louie Perez and the rest of these East L.A. renegades made their first fabulous album, How Will the Wolf Survive?, in 1984. By the Light of the Moon and The Neighborhood followed in 1987 and 1990, respectively, and although they differed from Wolf in significant ways, their blend of blues, rock and traditional Mexican folk music was of a piece. So Kiko, from 1992, came as a considerable shock: Its adventurous production, art-conscious arrangements and spirited experimentation took the rootsy stylings to which Los Lobos followers had grown accustomed into the stratosphere. Predictably, fans afraid of change were disturbed, confused and offended by this bold plunge into the unknown--and Colossal Head will probably provoke similar reactions. The act displays its blues influences more prominently than it did last time around; as a result, cuts like "Mas y Mas," a scorching showcase for guitarists Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas, will temporarily reassure the disgruntled. But the bizarro percussion that's a specialty of producer/engineers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake also comes into play (check "Revolution" and "Life Is Good" for more details), as does the players' willingness to twist old styles into new shapes; "Little Japan," for instance, is a cross between Santana, WAR, Gil Scott-Heron and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Such efforts might come across as indulgent in other hands, but not here: Studio fiddling keeps the gut-bucket instrumental "Buddy Ebsen Loves the Night Time" out of Stereotype City, boosts the Frankenstein beat and treated vocals that distinguish "This Bird's Gonna Fly," and juices the title cut with just enough eccentricity to hold a listener's interest to the very last note--and beyond. Timid types may well find the album disconcerting, but that's their problem. Because Colossal Head re-establishes Los Lobos as one of America's greatest bands.--Michael Roberts
Duh, the Big City
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Rumor has it that Hammerheads Paul Erickson, Jeff Mooridian and Craig Claus tested this molten slab of sonic clatter on unsuspecting lab rats prior to unleashing it on the public. Needless to say, the results weren't pretty. During the menacing spacecore grind of "Earth (I Won't Miss)," the tiny rodents started twitching uncontrollably, and small droplets of blood dribbled from their tear ducts. The critters fared even worse when subjected to "Monkey Mountain": The six-minute, Unsane-like skull crusher found them writhing in the corners of their cages in unbearable agony, desperately shoving food pellets in their ears for solace. By the time the raunchy title track bulldozed its way through the facility's speakers, however, the furry little beasts had all but forgotten their suffering and were hopping around on their hindquarters, demanding an encore. (At one point, they even flashed horned-paw salutes.) Overall, those involved in the experiment found the results "fascinating." Of course, Hammerhead's representatives have been careful not to leak this information to the public at large, for fear that it may deter record sales. But their efforts have proven unnecessary. People all over America have been grooving to the act's caustic mind bombs, and not one listener has complained about nagging side effects. Now, excuse me--I seem to have developed a nosebleed.--Brad Jones
Perhaps a better title for this latest nostalgia fest would have been The Beatles Unadorned, because the finest moments on Anthology 2 feature exceedingly familiar tunes as they existed in their germinal stages. Such attractions are nothing to sniff at: Some may find the inclusion of three run-throughs of "Strawberry Fields Forever" excessive, but for Fab Four fanatics, the various versions (John Lennon's initial, bare-bones demo, a slightly fleshed-out but still comparatively spare band effort, and a take that includes an unused Ringo Starr drum solo) provide an intriguing opportunity to sit over the shoulder of wizards at work on some of their very finest spells. Likewise, it's a testimony to the high level at which these young men were working between 1965 and 1968 that they almost always made the right choices. (Thank goodness someone decided to reference prime ministers Wilson and Heath during the background-vocal segment of "Taxman," because the alternative line--"Anybody got a bit of money," which the boys jabber like hooch-soaked Goons--sounds monumentally stupid.) But as was the case on this collection's predecessor, Anthology 2 contains neither heart-stopping discoveries ("12-Bar Original," an unreleased Duane Eddy-like instrumental, is pleasant but disposable) nor a genuinely golden reunion moment ("Real Love," another cut-and-paste job performed on a Lennon throwaway, doesn't justify the Natalie Cole treatment). In short, I'm glad I own this package, but I'm happier to have Rubber Soul and Revolver.--Roberts