Mano Negra

King of Bongo

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King of Bongo showcases Mano Negra as a straightforward rock band, downplaying its trademark eclecticism and turning up the guitars. The manic rhythmic drive is throttled back, and the broad range of styles the group explored on Puta's Fever only pop up sporadically to spice the rock context. The almost all-English lyrics embrace the outlaw rocker stance, and the material is largely geared toward emphasizing Mano Negra's connection with the punk side of the rock spectrum. The ranting rave-up "Letter to the Censors" isn't that far from Motörhead, and the acoustic guitar and organ on "Out of Time Man" has a feel close to Iggy Pop's "The Passenger." "Don't Want You No More" even lopes along at a country & western-flavored clip. Mano Negra can rock hard and convincingly -- notably on the steady, rolling title track or when blending dub reggae and rap elements into "Bring the Fire" -- and the music still offers much more variety than the rock norm here. While King of Bongo isn't a bad album (and its English-language rock orientation might be easier for many people to connect with), it is the least distinctive of Mano Negra's career.

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