http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/540c3d95fc546629b7736b2b57dd39243fae5928.png Kiko

Los Lobos


Slash/Warner Bros.
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4 0
December 17, 1996

For Los Lobos, breaking out of the bars and barrios was a cinch compared to escaping the Mexican-folk tag that has cast this East Los Angeles quintet as more of a torchbearer than a groundbreaker. But the band's soul-drenched 1990 album The Neighborhood blazed a challenging trail that has led to Kiko, a quirky yet emotionally gripping album that sets tales of hope and despair against rhythmic backdrops spiked with feedback, distortion, sound bites and other studio shenanigans that defy roots-rock tradition. From the bluesy clout of "That Train Don't Stop Here" to the Beatles-influenced balladry of "When the Circus Comes" from the haunting cabaret jazz of "Kiko and the Lavender Moon" to the festive waltz of "Rio de Tenampa," Kiko finds Los Lobos expanding their sound by finding new directions in familiar territory.

Coproducer Mitchell Froom downplays acoustic folk instruments in favor of a wobbly, intoxicating patchwork of textures and colorings that include percolating percussion, snarling electric guitars, gurgling baritone saxophones, foreboding Indian chants, angelic harps and an arsenal of keyboards. Despite the ambitious production, the music sounds more created than contrived, thanks to the compassionate touch of the group's main songwriters, singer-guitarist David Hidalgo and drummer Louis Péerez. Their compelling narratives address child abuse ("Two Janes," inspired by the suicide of two Milwaukee sisters), alcoholism ("Whiskey Trail"), homelessness ("Angels With Dirty Faces") and rape ("Reva's House") without resorting to slogans or melodrama. Even death is accepted with disarming grace and dignity in an elegant lullaby called "Saint Behind the Glass" (featuring a rare lead vocal by Pérez).

Rather than peddle easy messages on Kiko, Los Lobos embrace the cathartic power of rock, country and blues, as well as elements of Catholicism and Hispanic and Native American folklore that offer comfort, wisdom and strength in the face of such adversity.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories


    The Pack | 2006

    Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

    More Song Stories entries »