One of the best and most popular acts of the 1990s in Latin America, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs split in 2002. Six years later, perhaps encouraged by the wild success of the 2007 reunion of fellow Argentine superstars Soda Stereo, Los Cadillacs are back again with a new album, a new tour, and plans for at least a few new live releases, including an MTV unplugged set. True, there have been signs that the band has reconciled their differences (notably between the two leaders and main composers, singer Vicentico and bassist Flavio Cienciaruto), as LFC reunited first in 2006 to record a song for an Andrés Calamaro tribute album, and again in 2007 for an informal acoustic radio show. The untimely death of percussionist Gerardo Toto Rotblat in March 2008 was a heavy blow (the album includes a tribute to his memory in "Nosotros Egoístas"), but it also seemed to pull the band closer to what they originally were, a bunch of friends wanting to have fun together. The new lineup is the most streamlined of the band's history, only six members to the usual nine, but five of them (Cienciaruto, Vicentico, Sergio Rotman, Mario Siperman, and Fernando Ricciardi) were all founding members, and the sixth, Daniel Lozano joined for their second album, so unquestionably the band's true core remains intact. Their new release La Luz del Ritmo is not exactly a new studio album, but more of a compilation in the vein of their mega-seller Vasos Vacíos, a mixture of new material with revamped versions of old songs, although the ratio of new material is significantly greater in La Luz del Ritmo than in Vasos Vacíos. For starters, all 13 tracks are new recordings. The five new songs are " "La Luz del Ritmo," "Flores," "Nosotros Egoístas," "Hoy," and "El Fin del Amor," augmented by two Spanish covers (a practice common to most LFC albums) of the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" and Ian Dury's "Wake Up and Make Love with Me." The remaining six tracks are re-recordings of previously released material, including hits such as "Mal Bicho" and lesser-known songs such as "Padre Nuestro."
Unfortunately, as accomplished as everything in this record sounds, there is nothing here to dispel the fear that La Luz del Ritmo is nothing but a professional excuse to embark on a lucrative tour of Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Spain, and the United States -- and the obligatory live CD/DVD release that will probably follow. From their humble beginnings as a fun but amateurish ska band, LFC has evolved into an exciting, and even experimental, combo that brilliantly mixes reggae, rock, Caribbean rhythms, and even tango and jazz, all infused with a militant punk attitude. Their vastly improved musicianship is very much on display here, particularly in the new versions of very early songs such as "Basta de Llamarme Así" or "El Genio del Dub," but it's not enough to make up for the lack of inspiration in the new material and the covers. The new songs are all correct LFC tunes but, with the possible exception of Rotman's jaunty "El Fin del Amor," hardly memorable, and a bit too much on the auto celebratory side for a band usually concerned with more pressing matters. All in all, La Luz del Ritmo is a decent comeback card, but still remains the least essential of all the Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' releases. Let us just hope their new projects show more of the sparkling creativity that distinguished the band's last true studio albums Fabulosos Calaveras and La Marcha del Golazo Solitario. No one doubts their reunion tour will be terrific, though. [La Luz del Ritmo is also available in a CD/DVD combo edition that features a documentary about the band's reunion.]