Politico, the fifth full-length album by Mexican Institute of Sound (producer and songwriter Camilo Lara) is an album that almost wasn't. In 2011, an enormous amount of the explosive C4 was discovered next door to Lara's residence -- it was set to be detonated; by whom and for what purpose was never determined. In a recent interview, Lara said that he didn't deliberately set out to go into politics, but that politics had come to his house. These 13 songs, composed and assembled by Lara, address the chaos, destruction, tragedy, and violence that have become all-too-familiar elements in Mexican lives. Politico is a statement in the same way that the Clash's Sandinista! or the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks were, but it isn't nostalgic. Nor is it sonically similar to either. Longtime fans of MIS may have some initial issues because there are vocals on almost every tune. But not only do they not they detract from the set's appeal, their urgent expressions add to it. While the topical nature of these songs is undeniable, it doesn't mean this isn't a fun record. Quite the opposite. Lara isn't didactic in his lyrics; these are personal observations, and in that way, carry more weight than slogans. His unique compositional style makes them musically irresistible, and compelling. He uses Mexico's and Latin America's folk forms -- cumbias, descargas, sons, corridos, mariachis, bandas, rancheras, cha-chas, rhumbas, pachangas, and more -- and hard welds them to slamming beats, layered melodies, and infectious keyboard grooves, all via a staggering yet organic-sounding mélange of samples from rock & roll, hip-hop, funk, house, disco, techno, etc. Check the wild marimba samples that introduce the melody to "Tipo Raro," which originally appeared in the film Made in Mexico. Lara retains the melody throughout, but busts it from its context; he runs head-on into multi-tracked Farfisa organs, a deeply distressed beat, four-on-the-floor loops, rapping, and a brittle bassline that fires directly from the center. "Especulando" is a driving, funky electro jam. "Es-Toy" uses accordion and darkly tinged double trombones (à la Willie Colón), a pulsing organ, and chanted vocals. Despite its skittering dance beat and its mariachi horns, "Más" is pure, frenetic punk rock. Politico is easily the most sophisticated record in the MIS catalog. This is political music without apology; it's also frenzied dance party music that's virtually peerless.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek