England Ashamed of St. George?
Sunday Night Journal—July 9, 2006

Music of the Week—July 2, 2006

Calexico: Feast of Wire

I have a serious fascination for the Southwest, partly as a result of a sojourn in Tucson when I was about four: certain images fixed themselves permanently not just in my memory but in my emotions. And maybe the fascination is also partly a result of the Western movies that were popular when I was growing up. At any rate there's a romance that clings to all that imagery, and predisposes me to like Tucson-based Calexico. I first heard them, and of them, when I found mp3s of a couple of their songs somewhere a few years ago (probably at www.epitonic.com). I liked those and filed the name away for future reference. I've actually had this copy of Feast of Wire sitting around unheard for a year or two. Listening to Neko Case's Blacklisted spurred me to bring it to the top of my list.

It's always nice not to be disappointed. This is a wonderful album, constantly interesting in its eclectic variety. A huge array of instruments is involved, many of them played by Joey Burns, who is a major contributor to Blacklisted. I don't know how much sense it really makes to say that the music has a Southwestern atmosphere, but it is certainly very American, with a strong Mexican flavor. There are elements of country (pedal steel), desert-movie atmospheres (deeply reverb-ed guitars), mariachi, electronica, jazz, and even a little dub. The song titles suggest the variety: "Dub Latina," "Attack el Robot! Attack!" "Sunken Waltz." And I don't mean to imply that these are just stunts, or that the album is only a set of effects--it has real emotional power. The only relatively weak spot is the songs, and in particular the lyrics: the songs are certainly not bad, and are better than average for indie rock, but still not quite as good as their settings and performances. With the right set of songs these guys could give us one for the ages (well, okay, the decades): an Astral Weeks or a Revolver. But I'll settle for extremely good.

B+

More info and audio samples can be found at the eMusic page for Feast of Wire.

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