on 9 February 2003
I have always had a funny relationship with Calexico. I always find myself not liking them quite as much as I think that I should. I had the same problem with Echo & The Bunnymen and The Wedding Present.
I can listen to them and I do quite enjoy them but their songs seem to just, ever so slightly, miss the mark for me. Until this.
The feel is the same as previous albums - a kind of bleak desert scenario on the US/ Mexican border, a land inhabited by vultures and cactii with the occasional weathered cowboy wandering down a deserted street.
The songs, though, as individual works contain a new depth and richness of melody that has always been missing on previous albums. 'Sunken Waltz' is a traditional country song of the highest order. 'Not Even Stevie Nicks' reminds me slightly of Mercury Rev - and that is no bad thing either. With 16 tracks in all, some are links and the album is definitely meant to be listened too in its entirety. Enjoy the latin feel of 'Dub Latina' and the Jonathon Richmanesque 'Attack El Robot, Attack'. Shads of The Handsome Family add to the modern country ambience and the brooding darkness of 'No Doze' wraps up the best Calexico album to date.
Set up the Tequila, turn up the hi fi and enjoy. Modern Country just gets stronger and stronger.
on 3 March 2003
I found Calexico's previous album "Hot Rail" full of potential but failing to arrive at the destination it promised. Consequently, I dithered over buying "Feast Of wire" but I'm very pleased I did. For me, this latest offering from the band, who's heart and soul reside in the cacti inhabited badlands of the desert states. Calexico have finally realised their earlier promise.
The album is an eclectic mix of lo-fi alt. country, spicey Mexican rythms together with a hint of conventional country music, but always with an added edge!
The sixteen tracks (excluding the three excellent bonus tracks on the limited edition version of the album) move on apace and are without a blemish. Although sounding quite different, I imagine this record as an alternative soundtrack to the Wim Wenders film Paris Texas.
All this after one listen!
on 9 August 2003
This album should come with a sticker advising "Warning! This album is highly addictive."
This is the first Calexico album I have bought, but having heard a couple of tracks on radio, I decided to go ahead and buy it. It takes in a wide range of styles, from Mexican-infused waltzes to jazz, stopping off at lo-fi country and the sort of unclassifiable stuff you would expect to find on a Beck album. One aspect struck me straight away - the percussion. Just listen to the track "Whipping the Horse's Eyes", which involves a pedal steel and a cello playing a slow melody, but the percussion almost makes it danceable!
Almost half of the tracks are instrumentals, some of a minute or less in duration, which gives a soundtrack-like feel to the album, but it holds together better than most soundtrack albums.
on 24 August 2007
Calexico's sound inhabits the frontier badlands of the American Southwest, a cinematic multi-instumental brew that takes in jazz, alt-country, Mariachi, folk and electronics. It's a widescreen affair, a mixture of traditional rootsy Americana ('Quattro') and brooding instrumental mood pieces ('Pepita', 'Across The Wire') that evoke rust and dust choked border towns. Dubbed 'desert-rock' by some, don't be turned off by the Tex-Mex conceit, this is a wonderful album overflowing with ideas; a real grower that rewards repeated listens.
The filmic quality to the music is enhanced by anecdotal and scene-setting lyrics, not to mention Enio Morricone-schooled atmospherics. But they can do breezy west coast pop as well ('Not Even Stevie Nicks') and desert trip-hop: 'Black Heart' sounds like Portishead relocated from the Somerset coast to Death Valley. There are also head-nodding electro numbers replete with Mexican brass ('Attack El Robot! Attack!', 'Guero Canelo'), but the circling buzzards are never far away. 'Close Behind' - as the title suggests - is a galloping chase sequence, while 'Woven Birds' is shivery and spectral, redolent of the desolate desert night. The mescaline-addled spookiness of tracks like this and 'No Doze' recall the bloody coming of age of Cormac McCarthy's characters. 'Crumble', on the other hand, is the kind of bebop jazz you could imagine Sal Paradise and Dean Moriaty digging in On The Road.
Moreover, some of the best tracks are saved for bonus material, 'Corona' being an all-out jam in which alt-country and Mexican jazz spectaculary colide. If I was to criticise, I would say that Joey Burns' vocal isn't the strongest, and that the stylistic contrivances tend to negate greater emotional involvement in the music. But these are niggles, there is so much to enjoy in this rich and diverse album. If you like this, you might like Rock Central Plaza's 'Are We Not Horses', or perhaps 'Micah P Hinson and the Gospel of Progress'.
on 11 November 2006
I'd not heard their music before, and bought it in the hope of finding something original. That's what it is - brilliant, moody music from people who use a full range of sounds and instruments but who also know the value of sparse notes and quiet passages and use them to max effect. Great stereo production too.
Don't get the wrong idea if I say that of the three Calexico albums I own, this is my least favourite. It's certainly not a bad album, not as immediate as Black Light or Hot Rail, and with no hit single as obvious as the delightful Crystal Frontier.
Yet, like every Calexico epic, you can delve into Feast of Wire and come up with tiny gems, small snatches of entrancing music played on whichever instrument fell to hand (eg. Mariachi trumpet, accordian, strings, vibes, even sampled dog barks!), snippets of jazzy club music, folky mid-western songs, spaghetti western theme tunes, you name it! All very atmospheric, redolent of the Tex-Mex bush.
on 29 March 2016
A great album - I've lost count of the number of times we've played it while cooking or relaxing. I can't say the remixes do much for me (these are what cost it the fifth star for its rating), but even so this still provides 16 enjoyable tracks which reward you for listening to this as an album. I was led to listen to Calexico based on their contribution to the OST for Collateral, one of my favourite films, so was pleasantly surprised when I listened to Feast of Wire.
I fear to tread into conversations that attempt to characterise most music, even more so with varied groups like Calexico. There is a mix of electronic, jazz and folk with a distinct influence from Latin America. This makes for a pleasurable listening experience with some excellent and addictive motifs that recur through the album (Pepita, Whipping the Horse's Eye and No Doze).
In short, to paraphrase another reviewer, it's a cracker. I'd thoroughly recommend it.
on 1 February 2003
Best new album I've heard in a while. Never heard of them before, but loved this album instantly.
Styles and influences all over the shop. From Ennio Morricone to Mercury Rev, Slint & Up, Bustle and Out - and am I the only one can hear a distinct twang of the theme music off the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Black Heart??!
Makes you happy to be alive.
Listening to 'Feast of Wire' is the closest thing you will ever get to taking a road trip through America as Calexico offer up a moody, sultry and sun-drenched cruise along the tough, grainy terrain of the deep southern parts of that vast country.
In typical 'Americana' fashion, Feast of Wire is a reflective album tinged with moments of sadness but with a warmth at its core that is always able to filter through. The interpretation Calexico offer up is epic, often recalling tales of heartbreak but also of the sense of freedom and the vast expanse of America.
The setting is California/Mexico (hence Calexico) and as you would expect the essentially acoustic and alternative style of conventional 'Americana' is clashed with the Latin-influenced exuberance of Mexico with brass, Spanish guitar, sumptuous strings and boisterous vocal accompaniment in the form of well placed "ole's!" all prevalent. Added to this is a rich sense of experimentation with flashes of psychedelia which help to enhance the album's dreamy quality.
The epic nature of tracks like "Quattro (World Drifts In)", which you'll never tire of, and "Black Heart", with a string accompaniment of genuine beauty, entice you into loving this album almost immediately. "Fallin' Rain" will break your heart in two.
From the moment you begin listening you'll feel like taking your car, some friends and a box of Lucky Strike and driving as close to the sun as you can get. Enjoy.
on 2 November 2015
vibrate Jazz/Mariachi mix. Cannot fault it.