Though the list of “Most Underrated Albums of All Time” is lengthy, disputable and ever expanding, I nonetheless would like to make a bid for an entry on said list. My bid for a spot on the list is Los Lobos’ brilliant 1992 album Kiko, released on Slash Records. Easily the most enigmatic album by Lobos, Kiko is a true masterpiece – unassuming and subtly brilliant.
After a fairly tepid string of releases following the “La Bamba” soundtrack and How Will The Wolf Survive, it’s safe to assume that the abrupt arrival of Kiko was unexpected but certainly not unwarranted. Drawing on Americana, country, blues, tejano, and rockabilly with nuances of Native American and Mexican folklore, Kiko is the synthesis of Los Lobos’ influences up to that point. The end result is an engrossing North American narrative interweaving some of the best musical sensibility to date.
If there is one stand-alone track on the album to give specific praise to, it’s the titular “Kiko and the Lavender Moon”. A spellbinding track of mystical nature, it sets the mood for the rest of the piece as a treatise of Lobos’ fascination with the unknown. However, there is not one dud track in the bunch. The instrumental “Arizona Skies” paints a beautiful portrait of the American landscape, “Peace” is a Neil Young rocking anthem of radical nature. Each song surveys a different a mood and genre – Kiko is akin to a modernistic Southwestern White Album in its eclecticism without estranging itself by being so varied.
Kiko also serves to showcase both Louie Perez and David Hidalgo’s songwriting capabilities, a team who has done an astounding job at establishing Los Lobos’ sound since the early days of the band. The multi-instrumental Hidalgo and Perez display their guitar chops, as well as a true penchant for accordion, fiddle, and guitarron – all of which perfectly accent the overall tight sound.
There’s something comforting about Kiko – giving it a spin is like catching up with an old friend to find you’ve still got much in common. It may seem like somewhat of an anomaly given it’s release date, from both the ambitious narrative style to the nontraditional computer-generated image for the album cover. Kiko is overall a wholly entertaining, excellently executed and inspired album that deserves its just dues.
One reason Kiko serves importance both in today’s times and 20 years prior is our once- championing of a primarily Latino-American rock band, the likes of which are virtually absent today. Los Lobos should be credited at the very least for their cross-cultural attitudes and success despite a then-primarily white buying market. However, let’s look at the bigger picture – Los Lobos is one of the great American rock bands of the late 20th century, and progenitors of diversifying the rock scene as a whole.
Born and raised on classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime. He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can be found at his blog.