Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Latin Playboys: Latin Playboys [Slash/Warner Bros., 1994]
On Kiko, new producer Mitchell Froom, aided materially by wizard engineer and aural archivist Tchad Blake, transmuted Los Lobos's folkier textures into a kind of amniotic sound-surf, sustaining their rock noises and rhythms in swells of offhand accordion, rippling guitar arpeggio, whiskey-breathed brass, and articulated percussion. Here David Hidalgo and Louis Pérez rework Kiko outtakes to undercut the band's Springsteenian quest for meaning. Whenever the lyrical impressions lapse toward the stolid or sodden, they're lifted by the spare, bent music: echoes and silences, filtered voices and ancient klaxons, Indian film sounds and scratchy samples of street bebop, jagged Beefheart rhythms and idle guitar thoughts, friendly melodies from a Victrola perched on a barrio windowsill. Magical, mystical, the kind of inner-child fantasia that usually guarantees self-indulgence, but here is a field recording from two amigos' mutual unconscious. A+