After the all-out celebration of Keep on Giving: Acoustic Live!
, Los Lonely Boys
are back with their fourth studio offering and their first offering of new studio material in three years. Rockpango
(a made-up Spanish word the band translates as "rock party") was produced by Henry
, and Jojo Garza
, and is the first to appear on their LonelyTone imprint through Playing in Traffic. All of the material here was written by the Garzas, who add the Tosca String Quartet
and keyboards where necessary to grow out their sound. The songwriting and production here are ambitious; they expand upon their rootsy brand of Texican rock & roll that defines Los Lonely Boys
. Love and family are major themes on this album -- the lyrics are above and beyond anything they've done previously -- and the band is simultaneously branching out into new musical territory. The hard guitar-screaming opener "American Idle" and the acoustically based "Fly Away" showcase the sides of the band most listeners are familiar with. Both also reveal some of the trio's growth, however, with the addition of a layer of hand percussion and a funky bassline that traces R&B and norteño. "Love in My Veins" nods to Santana
, but with its staccato pulse, grooving B-3, and clavinet, it's far funkier. The track "16 Monkeys," which is one of the more comical jams on the record, is a burner with its nasty clavinet fills against Henry
's chunky blues guitar vamp. The title track borrows heavily from Jimi Hendrix
's "Manic Depression" with its guitar and drum phrasing, but with a swelling B-3, it becomes its own animal. While "Smile" is simply a beautiful folk-rock love song, it's countered by the slippery, silvery funk of "Baby Girl" (the Red Hot Chili Peppers
wish they were still capable of this). "Porn Star" is the album's only throwaway, but closer "Believe" is one of its highlights. The latter's forceful rocking drive with blazing layered guitars and a throbbing bassline are balanced by in-the-pocket breaks, and balanced by impeccable, three-part vocal harmony to sweeten it just enough. Rockpango
is the most satisfying recording that Los Lonely Boys
have come up with yet. It confirms the notion that the Garza brothers know exactly what they want and how to get it, with a sound that is inviting, infectious, and inventive.