The caped crusaders of psych cumbia have taken a huge step towards becoming the household name they deserve to be. Chicano Batman have signed to ATO Records (home of Alabama Shakes, Mariachi El Bronx, Drive-By Truckers, and Hurray For The Riff Raff, among many others) and readying their third record Freedom Is Free, which will be released on March 3, 2017. As a sneak peek, they dropped a video for their first single, an irresistible marriage of groovy goodness and funky melancholia.
“Friendship (Is a Boat In a Storm)” dials back the cumbia vibes for a smooth, retro soul groove, though the LA band doesn’t forget the trippy vintage tones that make their sound so special. The deeply charismatic chorus features guest back up vocals from the unstoppable Mariachi Flor de Toloache, bringing in some extra sweetness to our ears. It was produced by Leon Michels, who has performed with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and The Black Keys, and features signature sounds like that rollicking organ. But the lyrics aren’t as buttery as the rest of the tune; in the words of frontman Bardo Martinez, it’s “a personal reflection on the painful realities of human relationships.”
Friendship might get turbulent or break off in the course of a lifetime, but perhaps a crueler fate Chicano Batman depict in this song is that life goes on regardless. Their smooth grooves, thick keyboards, and feel-good melodies symbolize time marching on. The sun might seem a little dim when a friend isn’t so close anymore, but it won’t last forever, and Chicano Batman reminds us of that.