Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Manu Chao: Proxima Estacion: Esperanza [Virgin, 2001]
The French-raised Spaniard distilled the scattershot Europop-rock of Mano Negra into 1998's DIY, polyglot Clandestino, a word-of-mouth smash throughout Latin Europe and then Latin America. Clandestino was warm, sprightly, melancholy, palpably humane. This is all that with magic on top, reprising and varying a small store of infectious tunes into a motley suite segued and differentiated with sound effects, funny voices, surprise guest instruments, and spoken-word samples. The pulse is Marley sans Africa-reggae whiter than the Bellamy Brothers, ska liter than polka. The mood is festive in the urbane, liberal, and internationalist manner of Chao's new home, the pan-European haven Barcelona, a city that resisted Franco so vivaciously for so long that it assumes entertainment coexists with dread. Just in time--Euroworld! Never thought I'd hear it done right. A