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The Iguanas: Juarez (Piety Street)

Jun. 19, 2014
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In the heartbreaking 2013 documentary Narco Cultura, Juarez, the Mexican border city, is painted in strokes just this side of hell, and spoken of in terms of “end of civilization.” Roberto Bolano spent some 1,500 pages over a couple novels fictionalizing the town’s prevalent atrocities of serial femicide. And just last year the El Paso Times wondered if beheadings were the new “normal” for their nearby neighbors. But you certainly wouldn’t know from the bounce of The Iguanas’ new homage to the place.

Especially if you don’t speak Spanish. There’s a dirge-y español musing on death and blood flow in “Blues for Juarez,” but even a stick-up tale, “Dame Tu Reloj” (“Give Me Your Watch”) feels head-snappy and Friday-night fine. Throughout, their tracks are pulsing with funked-up infection almost to spite themselves: Fats Domino’s blue-times “It Keeps Raining” feels peppy, the litany of “Problems With You” still somehow feels like a get-together party jam, the narrator of “Matamoros Way” might not be making it home, but, what the hell? “Otro tequila, otra cerveza.” Near everything else pops like a cumbia—of which there is a floor-burner in “La Cumbia de Chon”—with the boys doing oompah well enough to belie their New Orleans roots. But those are evident all over, too, starting with the simple get-down vamp and strut of opener “Love, Sucker.”

All sax-spiked, slick, tight rhythm and rock swagger, full of inevitable Los Lobos-of-the-South labels and signposts, The Iguanas are still immersed enough in their hometown to wax nostalgic on Johnny Adams and ponder the gentrification of St. Claude Avenue. They just hit the infamous Jelly Roll Morton description of New Orleans’ “Spanish tinge” a bit literally.

It certainly makes for a great driving-south soundtrack. And, now, with reports and homicide statistics pointing to a potential turnaround, Juarez could maybe do well to heed the vibes of New Orleans. No place knows better: nothing sets off rebirth like a solid groove.


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