Tinariwen strip rock down to its basic building blocks of rhythm, guitars, and voice. On their second album, Amassakoul, there are no fancy studio tricks or multiple overdubs. They stick to what they've shown they do well - keep the music raw and emotional.
While there are similarities to the desert blues of Mali, these Tuareg nomads from the Western Sahara are as much as rock band as the Stones at their best, capable of conjuring up magic with a guitar riff or lick.
Often times, the music has the same bluesy, undulating, hypnotic rhythm of a camel crossing the sand, as on "Aldhechen Manin." But they can also crank the amps and unleash something to tingle the spine and feet, which they do on "Oualahila Ar Tesninam," as frantic and primal a piece of rock & roll as you're likely to find. There's even a touch of rap on "Arawan." But there's a complexity in their basic approach, the interlocking layers of electric guitars and the plaintive, defiant voices.
To listen to Tinariwen is to believe once more in rock and its power. This is angry and passionate; it's dangerous music in the very best sense. Western bands might have forgotten how to rock as if their lives depended on it; Tinariwen can teach them.