GARDEN RUIN is officially the band’s fifth full-length album. But for those who are fans, we know this is mainly because they like to stay on the road traveling and touring. Thus they have an enormous collection (dating back to 1996) of EP, live, and “tour-only” cd’s that are amazing too. Calexico is known for constant change and surreal sound. I’ve found myself in the past describing their released music as ‘southwest-mex alternative rock sound, that one should listen to while driving through an empty desert.’ But this album is much different, and yet, still brilliant.
Calexico – Bisbee Blue
You’ve heard that ‘Location’ is everything when buying a house or starting a buisness, well maybe the same can be said for creating a musical masterpiece. At the very least, location can bring on inspiration — and Garden Ruin is a reflection of that thought. This album was written in the southeast Arizona Victorian mining town of Bisbee — and recorded in Tucson. Joey Burns (vocals, lead guitar) describes why on the bands website (www.casadecalexico.com) , “…it’s always 10 degrees cooler in Bisbee than in Tucson. Our friend… recommended we practice in on an empty fourth floor flat above his friend’s restaurant, Cafe Roka. It proved to be inspiring on many levels. Great food,… down to Earth people, and no working cell phones,… barricaded inside a deep ravine.”
Calexico – Roka
The album opens with “Cruel” (also the first single and video) — which is said to be a reflection on environmental corruption. Ending with the lyrics “Even the horizon is gone/ Weather flees underground/ Future’s left to wallow in fortune’s waste.” Immediately, we see “Burns addressing contemporary America rather than the mythical Americas that were his source of the past.” But there is true definition to this album that many of Calexico’s previous may have not had. At first listen, you might shift in your seat, looking for the rough edges of the other albums. Make no mistake, this album is produced — and produced well by JD Foster.
Calexico – Letter to a Bowie Knife
“Letter to a Bowie Knife” talks about religious fundamentalism, yet political extremism is felt throughout the album, without lacking the musical harmony that Calexico has been known to join from a variety of sounds. This album is one of growth for them. It moves them forward into a new arena of musical genius. Never have they made a more ‘complete’ album. From top to bottom, they provide a sound and mood on this album that translates into immediate satisfaction of one’s inner-being. Just lay back and enjoy it’s soothing, but not smothering, ride into musical bliss.
Calexico – All Systems Red
The eleven song journey on Garden Ruin ends with “All Systems Red.” Which I must say is an amazing song to hear performed live, because it’s Calexico allowing themselves to howl and let it the guitars rock out (in an unusual fashion). The crescendo on the album loses something once you’ve experienced it in concert — but it’s still a treat. With fast-stabbing lyrics of “Everything you hear is distored in your head/ I want to tear it all down and build it up again” and “…words forming barely have a voice/ It’s just your heart breaking without choice.”
Calexico – Nom de Plume
If you don’t have them in your collection, I beg you to give Calexico a chance. And find out why they made The Alternakids top 10 of 2006. You can also vote for them at PLUG: Independent Music Awards for the “Americana Album of the Year” which is richly deserved. They are a blast to hear Live, so I urge you to catch them in concert and give a listen to thier full sound. I leave you with a little video that gives you a piece of Calexico magic live, with there incredible version of “Alone Again Or” (unfortunatly not available on Garden Ruin).
I’ll allow John Convertino (drums, percussion) to give the final word on Garden Ruin with, “There are monsters lurking all over it, even in pretty bits.” Enjoy something new. Happy New Year readers! — fearless23