After playing to crowded clubs for the better part of two decades, the Iguanas have likely witnessed a good sin or two. Sin to Sin, their first disc in four years, is loosely thematic, to suit its title. The rockers “You Make Me Sick” and “Won’t Sit Down” seem drawn from the more colorful conversations one might hear from the stage, spoken by characters that are just a bit carried away. Added to these are a couple of sexy, sleazy instrumentals that would be perfect to encourage more sinning.
This is a more upbeat and more characteristic Iguanas album than 2008’s If You Should Ever Fall on Hard Times, a post-Katrina album by virtue of its darker and more thoughtful tone. That disc had elements of jazz and Beat poetry that were new for the band but perfectly suited to that set of material. Still, it’s a pleasure to hear the band’s original garage-Latin sound come back strong here. The K-Doe-styled “You Make Me Sick” and the instrumental “Oye Mi Cumbia” can take their place alongside “Oye Isabel,” “Benny’s Cadillac” and their other long-time live crowd pleasers. The experimental side isn’t gone, though. “Todo Cambia,” a monologue in Spanish backed by atmospheric sounds and free-form blowing, outdoes anything Los Lobos did in their out-there period.
The album’s centerpiece is “Waiting for My Gin to Hit Me”, a tune rockabilly man Ronnie Self wrote toward the end of his troubled life (which ended for reasons described in the song). The Iguanas aren’t the first notable roots band to do this tune; they probably got it from the Skeletons (who shared some bills with the Iguanas in the early ‘90s, and did the song with a similar, slow-burning arrangement). But Rod Hodges adds a more savage guitar solo, and now this double-edged, dark-humored song can become the left-field hit it always deserved to be.