By Mabel Suen
By Cassie Kohler
By Evan C. Jones
By RFT Music
By RFT Music
By Tom Finkel
By Ryan Wasoba
By Roy Kasten
Just another band from east LA? Think again. The Blazers missed the SoCal roots-rock wave by a decade, got swamped by the Latin popsters in the '90s and then sank below all sonar. The Blasters, X and Los Lobos keep collecting critical name-checks; the Blazers keep kicking ass. Over the course of four Rounder albums, the band has never gussied up or watered down -- they haven't even showered off. You hear it in the first "yeah!!!" peeling out from their hellacious, 1995 debut, Short Fuse; in Manuel Gonzales' shredded guitar and vocal chords; in unflagging rhythmic shifts from norteño to shingaling-shimmy to move-it-on-over blues; in Ruben Guaderrama's stinging tres and snarling lines: "If you're thinking I'm not acting like I should/Well it might be too late/'Cause I'll be goin' for good." It's the sound of four working-class boogaloo boys who really just want to jack the Brown-Eyed Handsome Man himself, hock the chrome and get the hell out of the barrio.
So they did. For a sweet year or two following the release of Short Fuse, the Blazers rode their Ritchie-Valens-meets-The-Kinks garaje rock, as well as their Los Lobos connection -- Cesar Rosas produced their first two records -- until Magnet got bored and turned to sexier stuff. The Blazers kept gigging, but their last release, Puro Blazers -- a dazzling, all-Spanish set of cumbias and polkas -- languished for two years before being released and ignored in 2000. Rounder dropped the band but producer/twangster Pete Anderson picked them up: 17 Jewels, the group's first album in three years, is due out on Anderson's Little Dog label at the end of the month. It's not a recipe for breaking through, but it's not like the Blazers care: they have never needed or desired more than frolic and feeling, the shared tierra of rock & roll and cumbia. Cash in your Hives and White Stripes records if you have to -- just grab this rare chance to catch an unassailably great American band.
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