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Mediocre effort from Tuscon's finest
on 9 April 2006
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.