4.0 out of 5 stars Proof of the pudding...
Unlike other reviewers I came to this album without much familiarity with Calexico's earlier work. Their name kept popping up alongside other bands I liked, broadly in the 'Americana' category, and I got hold of a free download of an acoustic version of All Systems Red. That was enough to sell the album to me.
To mix the metaphors a bit, the proof of the...
Published on 11 Feb 2009 by N. King
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre effort from Tuscon's finest
I was really looking forward to 'Garden Ruin', the follow-up to Calexico's fabulous 'Feast of Wire'. Comparisons with the later are difficult this time around as the band have ditched their sun-baked dust bowl sound for a more (dare I say) accessible and 'classic' approach which predominately focuses on rock and pop.
What I love about 'Feast of Wire' and its...
Published on 9 April 2006
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre effort from Tuscon's finest,
By A Customer
This review is from: Garden Ruin (Audio CD)I was really looking forward to 'Garden Ruin', the follow-up to Calexico's fabulous 'Feast of Wire'. Comparisons with the later are difficult this time around as the band have ditched their sun-baked dust bowl sound for a more (dare I say) accessible and 'classic' approach which predominately focuses on rock and pop.
What I love about 'Feast of Wire' and its predecessors 'Hot Rail', 'Black Light' and 'Spoke' is Calexico's incredible sense of atmosphere and protrayal of the environment in which these albums were recorded. They simply took me away from an otherwise dull existence in the south of England. The albums also had some tight musicianship (drummer Convertino's brush style on earlier albums is fabulous, whilst Burn's vocals and nylon stringed guitar work have improved greatly over the years).
However, with 'Garden Ruin' I can only help but be disappointed. The songwriting is, in my humble opinion, not as strong as anything on 'Feast of Wire' and the production a little forced. The atmosphere is non-existant. I think Calexico may have hit a stumbling block here and I can only hope that they get this new, workmanlike (MOR even) sound out of their system.
There are a couple of highlights though, and are worth a listen - 'Roka' and 'All Systems Red' are slow burners and somewhat achieve the heights of former glories.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New directions, mixed success,
This review is from: Garden Ruin (Audio CD)Calexico should be applauded for pushing in different directions, but 'Garden Ruin' suggest some growing pains to be resolved.
'Cruel' is a great start, a brisk bass line driving a lyric about enivironmental issues. Backed by horns and trumpet this sounds like a thoroughly modern and politicised Calexico. 'Yours and Mine' is brief acoustic song that feels slightly out of place but is fine enough. 'Bisbee Blue' is rather pedestrian, never quite getting out of first gear and sounding rather like the Travelling Wilburys as it plods along. 'Panic Open String' builds slowly, Burns' falsetto works well enough here as he sings of power grids and solar panels. 'Letter To Bowie Knife' is much more like it though. It bursts into a fast-paced rock song that sounds like The Edge has been drafted in on guitars.
It feels like Side 2 starts with 'Roka', a return to the dusty borderlands of previous albums, and almost a hint of the Mariachi sound. The majority of the lyric is sung in Spanish by Ampara Sanchez. 'Lucky Dime' is much less successful, a cliched lyric and slouchy lounge music sound that just seems out of place. 'Smash' is understated at first but builds nicely before 'Deep Down' rekindles the rocky urgency. Whipped along with electric guitars it is the least typical Calexico song here in some ways but it actually sounds very good indeed. 'Nom De Plum' is the oddest track on the album. Plonking along with banjo and a rather unconvicing french lyric it just passed me by. At least 'All Systems Red' finishes on a high note, a fairly epic climax with strings, horns and a squalling finale.
I doubt any Calexico fan will love everything on 'Garden Ruin', but you will not hate it either. It is bold, imaginative and has definite highlights. Who knows what they will do next-judging from this it could be pretty much anything.
4.0 out of 5 stars Proof of the pudding...,
This review is from: Garden Ruin (Audio CD)Unlike other reviewers I came to this album without much familiarity with Calexico's earlier work. Their name kept popping up alongside other bands I liked, broadly in the 'Americana' category, and I got hold of a free download of an acoustic version of All Systems Red. That was enough to sell the album to me.
To mix the metaphors a bit, the proof of the pudding is in the playing - and I've played this album alot over the last couple of years. It is varied yet coherent, from the bouncy carefree 'Bisbee Blue' to the anguished climax of the aforementioned 'All Systems Red'. I really don't hear any of the U2-style bombast that one reviewer complains about - it IS accessible, but with depth and nuance to make it worthwhile for the listener to keep coming back to it. The one track I could do without is 'Nom de Plum' which sounds like somebody doing a comedy frenchman turn in a bad 1970s sitcom ('Alo, 'Alo, anyone?) - but for the likes of 'Cruel', 'Panic Open String' and the other tracks I've mentioned, I can forgive that!
4.0 out of 5 stars New highways for Calexico,
This review is from: Garden Ruin (Audio CD)With Garden Ruin Calexico have taken a further step away from the dust blown soundscapes of their masterpieces like "Hot Rail" and "The Black Light" to create a slightly more mainstream album. For the most it works and their unique sound is still there, even if layered under a more commercial songwriting.
Personally I miss the musical diversions into the late night Arizona sound and am a little concerned that tinges of Colplay/U2 stadium rock have crept into their sound but that doesn't detract fom another excellent album from this painfully underrated band.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Calexico are dead, long live Calexico?,
This review is from: Garden Ruin (Audio CD)There is no doubt that this CD will appeal to a larger audience than its predecessors. As a frequent traveller to and enjoyer of the southern Arizona ambience, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Calexico kaleidoscope of sound. The CDs have been mixed in quality but have always boasted stunning highlights.This CD has enjoyed good reviews but I cannot find one truly outstanding and memorable track. It is a pleasant but palid development of their soundscape with all the quirky nuances mixed well down. Few will dislike it, to be sure, but what a loss!
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The equal of Feast of Wire,
This review is from: Garden Ruin (Audio CD)Garden Ruin is Calexico's first release since their Convict Pool covers EP and their first album proper since their critically lauded 2003 effort, Feast Of Wire. Long-time fans won't be surprised to know that the Tucson collective explore new territory on Garden Ruin, but they might be intrigued to learn that this is almost certainly Calexico's most pop-orientated release to date.
With producer J.D. Foster, who has worked with everyone from Dwight Yoakam and Marc Ribot to Nancy Sinatra and Alejandro Escovedo, Calexico put themselves in good hands to continue their exploration of South Western culture and music; the flamenco-flecked Roka (Danza de la muerte) is just one indication of how far the band has come in their journey of Latin music, even recalling the mariachi trumpets of their earlier albums. However, Calexico have a well-deserved reputation for restless invention and there are more overt rock moments than fans may be accustomed to. So, while the hushed, desert-rock sound of Yours And Mine and the soulful, string-flecked Bisbee Blues might fit most effortlessly into the Calexico blueprint, they prove themselves equally adept at rocking out on Letter To Bowie Knife and the Crazy Horse-tinged six-minute album closer, All Systems Red. In fact, it could easily be Rivers Cuomo from Weezer singing the former's call-and-response chorus rather than Joey Burns.
Yet, Letter To Bowie Knife is not the only undisguised pop moment on Garden Ruin. Lucky Dime is a beautiful acoustic pop song, with Burns' papery vocals barely floating above John Convertino's gambolling guitar work. It would be the album's standout moment were it not followed by Smash. Here, Burns is reduced to a lovelorn whisper, with frail guitar and bated drum the only accompaniment, until the song detonates around the two-minute-thirty mark and the addition of a piano sees the song through to its stunning instrumental conclusion.
It's fair to say that while it's an album that takes a couple of listens before it begins to bloom, Garden Ruin is every bit as flawless as 2003's Feast Of Wire. Granted, some of the tracks form a slight departure for Calexico, but coming from a band of such sterling musicianship and imagination, Garden Ruin was never going to be anything less than spectacular.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where Has All The Music Gone???,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Garden Ruin (Audio CD)Contrary to what is written in the 'Description' piece above, this CD will NOT please all of Calexico's fans, and it certainly does not do anything for me! There is a noticeable absence of Calexico's customary musicality and far too much singing. In fact there is not one interesting instrumental piece in the whole CD and the lifeless vocals quickly begin to drag. It's sad but true that this is several steps behind any other Calexico CD and has almost no appeal.
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