REVIEWS | FEATURES | DEPARTMENTS | BOOMBOX | PODCAST | MISC
SEARCH:
splendid > reviews > 2/10/2003
Calexico
Calexico
Feast of Wire
Quarterstick


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Not Even Stevie Nicks..."

Buy me now
I've never quite understood the unanimous critical pants-wetting that invariably follows the release of a new Calexico record. Admittedly, I've haven't had extensive exposure to the band's material, but what I have heard has always struck me as a slightly limp indie version of an instrumental mariachi band -- and, well, I'm just not that fond of mariachi bands. Basically, the limited amount of Calexico stuff that I'd heard didn't exactly compel me to go out and explore their back catalog. However, I've always been much fonder of the work they've done in support of other musicians. Whether it be Giant Sand, Barbara Manning or Richard Buckner that they're assisting, Joey Burns and John Convertino seem to have an innate sense of what to bring to the table to bring the most out of an artist's songs.

So, then, it was with slight trepidation that I plunked Feast of Wire into the ol' player. Would I be forced to out myself as a dunderheaded critic who simply doesn't understand the genius of this band? Would I be drummed out of the critical corps? My brief worries were quickly put to rest when I realized that I really liked this disc. Now, as I mentioned before, I'm not terribly familiar with Calexico's other material, so I can't say for sure if they've really made a grand leap forward with this record of if the change has been more gradual, but let's just say that they're not an instrumental indie mariachi band anymore. For one thing, many of the tracks on Feast of Wire actually have vocals, and quite nice ones at that. Joey Burns's voice is a creaky, slightly tired-sounding thing, sort of like what might happen if you took a young Neil Young and dried him out in the Arizona desert for a few years.

It's not as if Calexico have completely abandoned their Southwestern conceits; "Across the Wire" features the same wheezy accordions, south-of-the-border horns and plucked nylon-string guitar that once turned me off. However, it seems that when it's accompanied by beautiful, slightly hallucinatory storytelling courtesy of Burns, as "Across the Wire" is, it comes together as a well-conceived whole. It helps that Calexico is all over the stylistic map here. Songs like "Quattro (World Drifts In)" are cinematic in a way that recalls a less bombastic outtake from Robbie Robertson's first solo record, whereas the wryly titled "Not Even Stevie Nicks..." would have fit quite comfortably alongside the high, lonesome tracks on Neil Young's Zuma. On the other end of the spectrum, the instrumental "Close Behind" sounds something like the soundtrack theme to a 1970s cop show set in Mexico City.

Overall, Feast of Wire's quality speaks for itself. Although not every track here is of the highest quality, all sixteen tracks are woven together expertly. Less significant instrumental tracks such as "Pepita" and "Whipping the Horse's Eyes" serve as lovely segues between the more substantial songs, in which Burns and Convertino truly exercise their skill at drawing listeners into their own little corner of the world. So, if you’re like me and never paid much attention to the two Tucson troubadours known as Calexico, it's time to come back and give them another chance. With Feast of Wire, they've made a truly outstanding record -- one that finally shows them in the same light as many of the estimable artists they've worked with over the years.



REVIEWS:

12/31/2005:
Ladytron

Brian Cherney

Tomas Korber

UHF

The Rude Staircase

Dian Diaz

12/30/2005:
Helloween

PTI

The Crimes of Ambition

Karl Blau

Rosetta

Gary Noland

12/29/2005:
Tommy and The Terrors

Blacklisted

Bound Stems

Gary Noland

Carlo Actis Dato and Baldo Martinez

Quatuor Bozzoni

12/28/2005:
The Positions

Comet Gain

Breadfoot featuring Anna Phoebe

Secret Mommy

The Advantage

For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records

12/27/2005:
The Slow Poisoner

Alan Sondheim & Ritual All 770

Davenport

Beaumont

Five Corners Jazz Quintet

Cameron McGill

Drunk With Joy

12/26/2005:
10 Ft. Ganja Plant

The Hospitals

Ross Beach

Big Star

The Goslings

Lair of the Minotaur

Koji Asano



Splendid looks great in Firefox. See for yourself.
Get Firefox!


FEATURES:
Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste probably didn't even know that he'd be the subject of Jennifer Kelly's final Splendid interview... but he is!



DEPARTMENTS:
That Damn List Thing
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo
Bookshelf
Pointless Questions
File Under
Pointless Questions
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo


ARCHIVE:
Read reviews from the last 30, 60, 90 or 120 days, or search our review archive.

It's back! Splendid's daily e-mail update will keep you up to date on our latest reviews and articles. Subscribe now!
Your e-mail address:    
REVIEWS | FEATURES | DEPARTMENTS | BOOMBOX | PODCAST | MISC
SEARCH:
All content ©1996 - 2011 Splendid WebMedia. Content may not be reproduced without the publisher's permission.