The reunited Little Feat surprised listeners with the smooth assurance of 1988’s Let It Roll, a slick update of their loose-limbed boogie that managed to be faithful to their past while belonging to the present, but their 1989 follow-up, Representing the Mambo, tipped the scales in the direction of the modern, encasing every one of their signatures under layers of glossy varnish. It’s easily their clearest stab at a commercial crossover, a distinction that’s glaringly obvious when the synthesized grind of “Teenage Warrior” is contrasted with the abandon of their early classic “Teenage Nervous Breakdown,” but most of Representing the Mambo is delivered with this stiff, synthesized sheen, which only becomes more apparent when they delve into jazzy sub-Steely Dan territory, as they do with a pair of Hollywood tales at the end of the record. Neither are especially sharp, either lyrically or musically, and the dull songwriting suggests that this record was cobbled together quickly after the success of Let It Roll; apart from the New Orleans stomp of “Rad Gumbo,” the songs are limp grooves that never catch hold because they’re dampened by that immaculate production, the one thing that was meant to be modern and now only makes Representing the Mambo feel like a forgotten artifact preserved in amber.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine