RS500 #469: Manu Chao — Clandestino

Cover of Manu Chao’s ‘Clandestino’

Year Released: 1998

Have I Heard This Before?: Nope. I’ve only ever heard of Manu Chao in passing, and I don’t recall ever coming across his music purposefully, let alone incidentally.

High Points: I didn’t quite know what to expect from Clandestino, but it certainly wasn’t this. Admittedly, this is my first experience with what could be classified as “worldbeat,” so forgive me for coming across as a novice, but I definitely haven’t heard an album like this before. The way that Chao shifts between genres and styles is effortless, and he makes the album function as one continuous piece. It really does feel like a journey through some unfamiliar land at times, and Chao’s good humor and sincerity make him a capable guide.

Low Points: That said, this ended up being one of those “admire, not love” albums for me. I spent a while trying to get into Clandestino, and try as I might, it didn’t quite click for me in the way that I hoped it would.

Loose Thoughts: I’m torn about whether or not this being on the Rolling Stone list represents a step forward for the people who compile it. On the one hand, music like this is definitely not in the wheelhouse of the oldest rock magazine in the world. Yet, at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if Manu Chao may end up being the kind of artist that your yuppie uncle gets into in the midst of a midlife crisis to make himself appear “cultured.”

Rating: Whatever the case, Clandestino is a pretty Good album that could turn you on to a new genre of music, even if it didn’t entirely work for me.

A somewhat exhaustive run-through of Rolling Stone’s updated 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list to see if they’re all truly great.