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Chicano Batman, Freedom is Free

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Andrea Gin

It’s not too often that an album that falls into the category of psychedelic soul comes across our desks here at CBC Music, but one listen to the title track of Freedom is Free by the Los Angeles-based quartet Chicano Batman had us clamouring for more.

The band has an impressive resumé, having played Coachella and Bonnaroo and opened for the likes of Alabama Shakes, Jack White, the Claypool Lennon Delirium and Gogol Bordello. In their nine years together they’ve released two full-length albums and two EPs, and now they are set to release their third album, which is their most ambitious and addictive effort yet.

On Freedom is Free you can hear familiar elements of funk, soul, and Brazilian tropicalía, but the sound is expanded by lead vocalist Bardo Martinez’s lightly sung, politically charged lyrics. The title track, featuring the backing vocals of New York’s all-female Mariachi Flor de Toloache, is a good example of the album’s depth of lyrics and sound.

“It’s a counterpoint to the propaganda catch phrase that was invented by the U.S. government during the first Iraq war, ‘Freedom isn’t free,’” Martinez explains via press release. “It’s a counter-narrative ... the song itself relates to the idea that freedom is inherent to every individual on this planet and in the universe. I live in Los Angeles, and people are pretty jaded; everybody’s so caught up in their routine they can’t tap into their own spirits. For me, music is about the spirit.”

Chicano Batman is as unique in style as it is in sound, always performing in matching suits and ruffled shirts. Martinez says it’s part of the band's homage to ‘70s Latin American pop bands.

“We're making a particular reference that some people understand — Los Ángeles Negros, Los Pasteles Verdes. In the ’70s, it was a big thing where all these cats were playing romantic ballads, but they were funky as hell.”

You can listen to Freedom is Free right here a week before its release date and pre-order it here. They will be playing a show in Toronto at the Velvet Underground on April 4. Tickets are available here.

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