Thievery Corporation

Radio Retaliation (ESL)

Electronic music is rarely thought of as being revolutionary from an ideological standpoint. Most artists in this genre push buttons and sliders, not political agendas. For every M.I.A., there are a hundred jokers with club-filling beats and little else. Washington, D.C.–based Thievery Corporation is a notable exception: Over the course of five studio albums, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have crept ever closer to mainstream ears with their seductive, subversive chillout grooves.

Thievery's latest, Radio Retaliation, is a commentary on the creativity-challenged state of the music industry. The 15-song effort makes obvious attempts at radical chicdom with propagandistic sloganeering (one song is actually called "The Shining Path," a reference to Peruvian Communist guerrillas), but more important is the disc's underlying theme: that music can connect far-flung parts of the globe. Using dub production techniques as a bonding agent, Thievery weaves a downtempo multiculti quilt incorporating Jamaican dancehall, Central and South American folk, Hindu trance, Brazilian funk, and neo-Afrobeat. Highlights include "Vampires," a diatribe against the International Monetary Fund, voiced by Femi Kuti; "El Pueblo Unido" – imagine a United Farm Workers rally set in a Juarez discoteca; "33 Degree" — a whispered backslash at secret society puppetmasters; and "La Femme Parallel," a beautiful, apolitical song with French vocals and shimmering gossamer textures. For lounge lizards who want to be shaken and stirred, Radio Retaliation makes a perfect soundtrack for Molotov cocktail hour.

 
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