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Los Mocosos

American Us (Six Degrees)

San Francisco's Mission District is a diverse-ass place -- Mexican taquerias sit cheek-by-jowl with Senegalese restaurants; indie rock bars abut Guatemalan Pentecostal churches, revolutionary socialist bookstores, falafel counters, and pho shacks; every race and color of face can be found walking amid the two-story storefronts. It's like the whole multiethnic length of Hillcroft telescoped into a few pedestrian-friendly blocks.

But if you had to pick one vibe and say it summed up the Mission, you would have to say it had a Latin feel -- after all, it takes its name from La Mision del Dolores, an 18th-century Spanish church. And that's why Los Mocosos could be seen as the official band of the Mission District, the sonic manifestation of all that you see, smell and touch there.

Like the District, Los Mocosos are predominantly Latin and super-eclectic -- the nine-piece band boasts members of Nuyorican, Hawaiian-Puerto Rican, Honduran-Cuban, Peruvian, Anglo, Chicano, Chicano Nicaraguan and Guatemalan Jewish extraction -- and they showcase as lavish a palette of musical styles as you would expect. There's straight-up salsa, touches of Spanish-language rap, old-school R&B in English ("I'm Your Puppet"), crackling funk, reggae and ska, intricate cumbia, and velvety Latin jazz/funk à la War. And they filter all of it through a deeply urban, heavily tattooed wrong-side-of-San Fran cool, which is what makes it all work. No matter what style they choose for a particular song, they always sound like Los Mocosos, the pride of the Mission District, not like some dilettantes dabbling in salsa, ska or funk.

Since they're from San Francisco, you might expect there to be some political content in the lyrics. And there's plenty -- as the title suggests, the record is sort of a concept album about being Latino in America in 2004. Like they say, they are "Latinos on a mission" from "the streets of East Los to the streets of el barrio," cooking up "a whole new scenario." And they're not alone -- to name but a few bands, L.A.'s Ozomatli, Austin's Ghandaia, Los Lonely Boys and Grupo Fantasma, and Houston's Los Skarnales and Chango Jackson are all part of the same operation. With so much Anglo music sounding so lame these days, all I can say is gracias a Dios to that.

 
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