[POST-HIP-HOP] The Chicharones are best experienced live. This isn't likely to change, barring the release of a high-budget 3-D live show on Blu-ray, because so much of what makes the Chicharones the Chicharones—the dance moves; the frenetic live band; DJ Zone's pig-masked hijinks; the band's innate ability to perform its silliest songs with heartbreaking earnestness—has to be seen to be believed. There's no reason the duo of Sleep and Josh Martinez can't make a hit record. Swine Flew just may be too ambitious to be the Chicharones' breakthrough.
Opening cut "Spotlighting" is a song entirely of this musical moment. Despite containing melodic and production nods to Taco's 1982 version of "Puttin' on the Ritz," the song is catchy on its own merits and post-genre enough (think Black Eyed Peas or Cee Lo Green) to capture a national audience. The same can be said of the doo-wop and fast-rap-infused "Never Had it Easy" and the almost painfully smooth "Hi Hey Hello," a longtime standout from the Chicharones' live set.
But the disc's best songs are also its least marketable: The funny and inspiring "Burn it Down," despite being the album's de facto first single, feels a little too old-school to catch fire. "Gangsta Momma" is a laugh-out-loud story-song that feels plucked from the Fresh Prince era. Three of the album's best tracks, "Good," "5000" and "Smile?," each run about five minutes.
At its worst moments, Swine Flew tries to fly in a handful of directions at once—see the honky-tonked "Media Frenzy" or the laudable but confused "Banker's Bonanza"—without ever quite soaring. At its best, it's probably too personal, complex and funny an album to go supernova. Because the Chicharones are one of my favorite local bands—and I like seeing them live in intimate venues—I have mixed feelings about this.
SEE IT: The Chicharones play Ted's (at Berbati's), 19 SW 2nd Ave., on Friday, Aug. 10, with Champagne Champagne and the Knux. 9:30 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+.