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Manu Chao, ‘La Radiolina’ (Nacional/ Because)

Paris-born, Barcelona-based Manu Chao has always been a traveler, roaming the U.K. to pick up punk, heading to Central America to immerse himself in salsa. The premise of 2001’s Próxima Estación: Esperanza — Chao moving casually between styles and languages as radio static smoothed the transitions — was apt. On his third studio album, he’s still a nomad, but now he sounds as if he’s on the run.

La Radiolina is all foreground action. The restless intensity that takes root in the frantic guitar picking on opener “13 Dias” rarely lets up throughout. If the driving beats’ suggestion of a chase scene weren’t enough, the first single, “Rainin in Paradize,” introduces police sirens and an anxious, stinging guitar line, both of which reemerge every few tracks.

Who’s Chao running from? Likely the world’s warmongers. “Rainin in Paradize” rages at the battle-ravaged state of several countries, while on “Politik Kills,” he recycles a verse assailing government corruption that he contributed to Amadou & Mariam’s “Politic Amagni.” That Chao can preach against violence, mash his straightforward rock riffs into mariachi horns, and still create something danceable makes him universally accessible and patently indefinable. And though his global messages aren’t particularly deep, his skilled, spirited execution sets him apart from other peacenik troubadours. The way to a politically pissed-off fan’s heart isn’t always through an appeal to bruised national pride — sometimes, it’s through her hips.

Now Hear This: Manu Chao – “Rainin’ in Paradize” DOWNLOAD MP3

Now Watch This: Manu Chao – “Rainin’ in Paradize”