Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Calexico's newest Garden Ruin comes out today. I've been listening to this for a couple of weeks, though admittedly without much intensity, and I have to say I'm a bit underwhelmed. I'm a Calexico fan though not nearly as hardcore as some, but there's something missing from this record. Sure, it has some excellent moments (I wouldn't bother writing if it didn't) but there's a quality that's lacking here that was very much present in their other records. OK, so what quality is that exactly? Well, maybe not a quality as much as a feeling. Calexico has a pretty unique sound and their records have always been stylistically diverse with each album genre hopping from film soundtrack to Mariachi to Tex-Mex to Pop to Rock. It may have made the records a bit incoherent but they were always fun and had that unqualifiable element of joy that comes from a band loving their music without thought towards restraint. Garden Ruin seems much more workman like, as if the band was under a great obligation to make the next step towards indie-rock super stardom or to leave an indelible mark that says they're "important". The tone of the record is very consistent relying more on verse-chorus-verse songs and very "regular" sounding guitar, bass, drums arrangements. It just doesn't feel very adventurous and I suppose that's something I've come to expect from their records (and singing in French doesn't count as adventurous in my book).

So harsh criticism aside, it's still Calexico. And Calexico makes music that's head and shoulders above most bands out there, maybe that's why I'm a tad let down by Garden Ruin. When they get it right though they hit a home run. On songs like "All Systems Red", "Deep Down", and "Bisbee Blue", the band's talents come shining through like rays of afternoon sun through collapsing rain clouds. I just wish there was a bit more of that or enough variation to make it feel like a Calexico record and not a record by the next entrant in the Next Big Thing contest. Of course this critical little review should be weighted accordingly; I believe I hold the best bands to higher standards. Calexico's one of our best bands and while Garden Ruin kicks some serious ass it doesn't knock me out (love the pugilism metaphors).

1 song from Garden Ruin:

Deep Down


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quite agree! Let's hope the next album will be much less mainstream-like and show a return to the unique style of their elder records. This one isn't bad, but it just isn't that exciting.


2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Calexico too, but that song's pretty much a droning bore. Working too hard on Neko's projects I guess.

12:58 PM  

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