With the first strums of “Passed You By,” and the airy vocals of lead singer Bardo Martinez, I was transported back to a hazy, 1972-Curtis Mayfield, kind of day. Sun shining, surrounded by friends, not a care in the world, this song being the heartbeat we share. I could have stopped right there, track one, and I would have been happy. Chicano Batman’s third record, Freedom is Free, is a groovy, politically-charged and soul-filled dance party. The first single, “Friendship (is a Small boat in a Storm)” is another song that felt warmly familiar but still unique, like the band and their ruffled shirts. I’m a sucker for electric organs and this song hit with a one-two punch; a soulful organ with a trippy, psychedelic guitar.
The instrumental jams are funky, a strong part of the record and a testament to the bands musical skills as are the songs sung in Spanish. I didn’t understand what they were saying, and didn’t need to, I felt every word. The mixture of the drums, the island feel, can’t help but move you and your hips. Their arrangements are so solid and beautifully layered providing different grooves and musings each time their played, a welcomed diversion from the typical over produced or stripped down ballads getting airplay.
There are parts of Freedom is Free that remind me of other times and other artists, the band doesn’t truly sound like anyone but themselves. Chicano Batman are fresh and unique. Their music has been compared to many styles; Tropicalia, American soul, Psychedelic, R&B, and I’d even add Ethiopian Jazz. There is the creativity, the talent, the desire to unite and move. Perhaps this IS their sound, the sound that represents us all.