On its first new CD in four years, Afrodijiak, Charlotte rock en español veterans Bakalao Stars leads off with the dancehall-inflected powder keg "Boom." Over rubbery bass and swarming horns, Mista Reggaeman's roughed-up rhymes get up front and personal: "To start the revolution, make your own evolution."
Serving up rock-steady Latin reggae since 2002, the Stars helped launch Charlotte's 2004-'09 alternative Latin boom. That wave has subsided, but the Stars remain, growing richer, deeper and funkier.
The band delivers a message of dignity and respect, but never forgets to set hips snaking. Cantering second-wave ska collides with salsa swagger on the first single, "La Muda." On the second single, "Cumbia," founding brothers Mista Reggaeman and drummer Javier proudly display their Colombian roots, with bright punctuated brass dovetailing into a gentle guitar coda.
Elsewhere, Diego and Mr. Popo's guitars are energetic and in your face. Washes of wah-wah pedal and distorto Spanish guitar propel the whirling "Corazon." Crackling lead guitar glides atop the jack-hammer percussion of "Culcha," and loping six-string rhythms weave through the spooky, dub-inflected drop out of "Rudeboy."
The lovers rock-style of "Letal" pays tribute to both a pretty woman and the transformative power of music. The chorus is joyous and direct: "Shake that ass and get down."
It may well be Bakalao Stars' life-affirming manifesto, delivered with a groove as seductive as Afrodijiak's punning title.