There really isn’t an American corollary for the French-born, Basque in origin and multilingual songwriter named Manu Chao. Sublime, as awful as that is to say, might be the closest thing. The same sort of cross-cultural idea is present: a heady mix of Caribbean styles, hip-hop, electronics and rock. What Manu Chao does, though, is to imbue his work with a sturdy political streak moving beyond espousing an affection for weed and consternation for its legal status. Here in the States, if the Spanish Civil War worms its way into the high-school curriculum, there’s not much more than a discussion of Picasso’s “Guernica” and a quick quiz. The conflict, which marks some of Manu Chao’s political thought, was really a miniaturized and protracted practice for the pending World War. In Basque country, there’s still a reasonably strong desire to secede. Kinda like Texas, but with an anarchist bent. And not a Sex Pistols’ riot in the streets sort of thing, but a genuine desire for self-determination, no bosses and no managers. Either way, the seventy-year-old penchant for freedom hasn’t ensured the most up-to-date production values as Manu Chao’s 1998 debut “Clandestino” amply portrays. On more than just a few songs, stuck in between singing, rapping or simply speaking, a wealth of sound effects find their way in. Of course, the sounds just as easily summon dying in Super Mario Brothers as it does the noises keychains made in the eighties if you were lucky enough to have one of those checkout-lane collectibles. Regardless of the sonic qualities in play here, Manu Chao turns in such a thoughtful and somehow unique view of sundry world musics, it’s really difficult not to enjoy listening. (Dave Cantor)
September 13 at the Congress Theater, 2135 North Milwaukee, (773)276-1235, 7pm. $32. All ages.