Negu Gorriak

Salam, Agur

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A swan song album of versions of favorite songs doesn't sound terribly interesting for anyone but unconditional fans, but Salam, Agur is actually a pretty intriguing glimpse into Negu Gorriak's musical world. Apart from learning what was filtering into Basque country during the '80s and '90s, a song list drawn from the Who, Otis Redding, Bob Marley, Macka-B, N.W.A., Public Enemy, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, and a couple of homegrown groups is pretty revealing of the band's range. Once DJ/mix culture arrived, it became natural for Negu Gorriak to reconcile different styles and juxtapose elements within songs. It's easy to get the concept when the band moves from the light ragga of Macka-B's "Sex Machine" to the hardcore thrash of Minor Threat and back to Bob Marley & the Wailers' triumphal "Lively up Yourself." Or go from the political lyrics and sunny Anglo-reggae of Linton Kwesi Johnson to the Basque band Anestesia's full-throated guitar roar before heading back to the chicken-scratch funk of Charles Wright's "Respect Yourself" via N.W.A.. In many ways, hearing those connections is almost more important than the actual performances, although there's little to fault in Negu Gorriak's delivery of their old favorites. To choose two songs as the chief inspirational models, the clipped power chords of "I Can't Explain" and the melancholic sweep of the Clash's "Rebel Waltz," with a Basque accordion thrown in, would win out.