Electronic music is rarely thought of as being revolutionary from an ideological standpoint. Most artists in this genre push buttons and sliders, not political agendas. For every M.I.A., there are a hundred jokers with club-filling beats and little else. Washington, D.C.–based Thievery Corporation is a notable exception: Over the course of five studio albums, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have crept ever closer to mainstream ears with their seductive, subversive chillout grooves.
Thievery's latest, Radio Retaliation, is a commentary on the creativity-challenged state of the music industry. The 15-song effort makes obvious attempts at radical chicdom with propagandistic sloganeering (one song is actually called "The Shining Path," a reference to Peruvian Communist guerrillas), but more important is the disc's underlying theme: that music can connect far-flung parts of the globe. Using dub production techniques as a bonding agent, Thievery weaves a downtempo multiculti quilt incorporating Jamaican dancehall, Central and South American folk, Hindu trance, Brazilian funk, and neo-Afrobeat. Highlights include "Vampires," a diatribe against the International Monetary Fund, voiced by Femi Kuti; "El Pueblo Unido" – imagine a United Farm Workers rally set in a Juarez discoteca; "33 Degree" — a whispered backslash at secret society puppetmasters; and "La Femme Parallel," a beautiful, apolitical song with French vocals and shimmering gossamer textures. For lounge lizards who want to be shaken and stirred, Radio Retaliation makes a perfect soundtrack for Molotov cocktail hour.