- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Every year, Wolf Trap’s summer music series embraces regional and distinctly American music styles. So it’s fitting that the Iguanas join the 2004 schedule as part of the 15th annual Louisiana Swamp Romp, which begins at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The New Orleans-based Iguanas have spent the past 14 years crafting an identity associated with the best of their city’s multicultural sounds. The group’s most recent release, 2003’s “Plastic Silver 9-Volt Heart,” surges with all of the recognizable New Orleans influences: R&B, rootsy rock, rhythms borrowed from Caribbean and Latin musicians.

The Iguanas’ hometown daily paper, the Times-Picayune, hailed “Plastic Silver 9-Volt Heart” as “the best album by any South Louisiana artist in 2003.” Music critic Keith Spera praised the “subtlety and sophistication” of guitarist, accordionist and vocalist Rod Hodges’ songwriting and noted the group’s facility for weaving “ominous” and “meditative” layers in “Un Avion” and “Goodbye Again.”

The group, which performs songs in English and Spanish, comes to Wolf Trap with a truckload of recognizable and exotic instruments. In addition to playing accordion and guitar, Mr. Hodges plays a lap steel guitar. He’s joined by Doug Garrison (drums, percussion) and Derek Huston (tenor sax), plus Rene Colman (bass, piano, organ, guitar, Mellotron, backing vocals) and Joe Cabral (vocals, saxophone, guitar, organ, percussion). Mr. Cabral also uses a Mexican stringed instrument known as a bajo sexto.

In addition to the Iguanas, the Swamp Romp features the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, John Mooney & Bluesiana and Chris Ardoin & Double Clutchin’.

• • •

Mention the names Dismemberment Plan and the Promise Ring to independent-rock fans, and you’ll hear sighs and comments such as “I wish they hadn’t broken up.” Instead of lamenting the passing of those bands, their supporters can cheer the new album from Maritime, which brings together the Promise Ring’s Davey von Bohlen and Dan Didier and Dismemberment Plan’s Eric Axelson.

Maritime begins its 33-date tour of this country and Japan with two shows in Milwaukee, home to Mr. von Bohlen (vocals and guitar) and Mr. Didier (drums). Mr. Axelson gets to play for a hometown crowd when the band steers south for a stop tonight at the Black Cat.

The trio, known for a short time as In English, released its first full-length disc, “Glass Floor,” this week through the District’s DeSoto Records. The opening scene describes a difficult breakup set to an appropriately heartsick acoustic strum: “Worlds collide and we depart/All my clothes get strewn about,” sings Mr. von Bohlen on “The Window Is the Door.” Among the lurking sadness, he softly but solidly declares, “I’m not your way out.”

Instead of following “The Window Is the Door” with a mopey love hangover, Maritime reverses course and shares the first of a collection of perfect-for-summer songs. “Sleep Around,” “We’ve Got To Get Out” and “Adios” feel as liberating as a sun-filled backyard pool party on a holiday weekend. There’s no need for showy solos or complicated timing: The music celebrates the purity and joy of the pop song.

Maritime and producer J. Robbins luxuriate in guitars, bass, drums and some perfectly placed horns, piano and cello. With his deft touch, Mr. Robbins, a local punk icon known for his years with Government Issue, Jawbox and Burning Airlines, shows why he’s now an in-demand producer.

As any Dismemberment Plan and Promise Ring fan would expect, the lyrics deviate from the music’s pop shine. Stamped with images that mark the passing of time, especially falling leaves, the songwriting is as vivid as the rainbow boxes that illustrate the CD.

“We cut our teeth on the leather streets of suburban retreats/With the glass floor underneath I know your bones from your heart,” Mr. von Bohlen sings on “We’ve Got To Get Out.” The band returns to love, damaged, on the closer, “Human Beings.” The last vocals proclaim: “Tornado winds are imminent/They couldn’t take me alive/And I will not always love you.”

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