Record Review - 3 August 07 2003

As lazy and sweaty as a Louisiana summer night, New Orleans' Iguanas' first album in four years envelops the listener in a languorous blend of Latin beats, Mexican rhythms and a swampy vibe. The quintet, singing in Spanish and English, has finally released the classic they've been on the verge of since their 1993 debut.

Comparisons to Los Lobos are relevant, even to the extent of calling this album the Iguanas' Kiko. Like that milestone, Plastic Silver expands their established sound, creating a deep, often ominous groove. They rock out with restraint on the more fully realized songs.

The title track, co-written by Dave Alvin, is a lovely ode to the tiny transistor radios of the '60s, fondly recalled by singer Rod Hodges as reverbed guitars shimmer and float. "Sugar Cane" strips down the sound, riding on a delicate New Orleans second line as an accordion dips us in the bayou. Even sax-propelled rockers like "Zacatecas" keep the flame low while exuding a sizzling danceability. But the album's influences and mood coalesce most fully in the tension of "The First Kiss is Free," the disc's longest track, where the singer's dusky voice and the unpretentious lyrics float over the ghostly guitars and brushed drums to create a haunting masterpiece.

The Iguanas play Smith's Olde Bar Fri., Aug. 8. $10.