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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast of post-Mariachi rock music
In a way the reviewer from Phoenix sums it all up, because if you believe in a world strictly divided into simple categories by intransigent boundaries, Calexico's music obviously isn't for you. Gringos shan't play with mariachi bands just as the white hillbilly kid from Tupelo, Miss., had no business stealing that negro groove (or even worse, their gospel music), Robert...
Published on March 3 2003 by ogmb

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3.0 out of 5 stars Rejuvenated
Feast of Wire comes closest to capturing the excitement and atmosphere of Calexico's live performances than previous releases--meaning it's not quite as dull as Hot Rail or Black Light--and there are a couple of surprises along the way.
I commented on another Calixico review that the band may be painting itself into a musical corner, but Feast of Wire contains a lot...
Published on Feb. 24 2003


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast of post-Mariachi rock music, March 3 2003
This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
In a way the reviewer from Phoenix sums it all up, because if you believe in a world strictly divided into simple categories by intransigent boundaries, Calexico's music obviously isn't for you. Gringos shan't play with mariachi bands just as the white hillbilly kid from Tupelo, Miss., had no business stealing that negro groove (or even worse, their gospel music), Robert Zimmerman turned into Judas when he picked up the electric guitar and Sandy Koufax should have been driven off the mound because Jews don't play baseball. Boundaries are easy ways out for those who want to avoid the harder task of judging a work on its merit rather than by the classifiers it reinforces or breaches, and Calexico have always made it their business to negate the borderline that separates the Sonoran desert into a Calexican and a Mexicali part (which might explain in part why they're so much more popular in boundary-infested Europe than in their home country).
For those who appreciate Calexico for who they are, this album is amazing. For most of the album Calexico's high wire (sic) act between the populist and the intricate works out perfectly, and unlike some of the earlier albums Feast of Wire actually flows. Sunken Waltz and Quattro find a perfect way to match the groove of the music and the sobriety of the message, and Black Heart even manages to top this feat. Ironically, for the most part the mariachi elements are muted and make place for a more pronounced European influence: the string arrangements on Black Heart and Close Behind recall Goldfrapp, Yann Tiersen or Francoiz Breut's stunning Vingt a Trente Mille Jours rather than Mariachi Luz de Luna. (Again, the influences here are mutual and far from a crowd-pleasing career move.)
The instrumentals, long the Achilles heel on Calexico albums, work out perfectly and for the most part do what they are supposed to: link the vocal tracks and lead from one idea to the next. If there is one thing to complain though, it is that the album is frontloaded with vocal tracks (pandering to listening boothes?), and the album peters out on four quasi-instrumental tracks (especially the somnambulant No Doze) rather than end with a bang. But even with this minor blemish Feast of Wire is Calexico at the height of their skills and a strong contender for my album of the year.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Sweeping Southwestern Soundscape, April 21 2004
By 
Kurt Harding "bon vivant" (Boerne TX) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
My first taste of Calexico was a song they did on a Lee Hazlewood tribute album. I was intrigued by their sound and decided to get one of their CDs to broaden my overview. For no particular reason, I settled on Feast of Wire.
There is a lot to like here, with a multitude of musical influences evident. Listening through, I swear at times I'm hearing Neil Young or Ennio Morricone. At other times, I hear the sounds of funk-soaked jazz soundtrack music a la Barry Adamson. And always around the corner one hears strains of the borderlands sounds that have come to be known as desert rock. Even the cover art is evocative of the southwestern frontier.
My favorite songs here are Sunken Waltz, Quattro, the Morricone-infused Close Behind, Dub Latina, Guero Canelo, and the Adamsonian soundtrack jazz of Crumble.
With Feast of Wire, Calexico offers a sweeping southwestern soundscape that will carry you far away from the cares of the day. I recommend this to anyone who is musically adventurous and has a taste for the borderlands in their blood.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Finally finding their feet...., June 2 2003
By 
William Petersen "bp2" (MD United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
While some of the previous reviews gush with overwhelming awe, others fault Burns and Convertino for over-emphasizing the mariachi influences and chicano-inspired cover-art. What I like about this album is that Calexico has taken those border influences and integrated them more fully adding hints and flavorings but never letting it overpower. I wouldn't take the disguntled AZ fan's quip so serious about using a mariachi band for back up as offensive except that it shows a niavete on the reviewer's part. If street-cred was so important the Rolling Stones, Los Lobos, Wilco, etc. would not have been allowed to do anything. Ever listened to Exile on Main St? Its a heavily influenced blues album but being honkies Mick and Keith should have hung it up then lest they get other ideas. Los Lobos is as divergent as any band but does being latino preclude them from playing rock and experimenting with their sound or should they have marginalized themselves to playing mariachi and ranchera music?
Feast of Wire shows Calexico growing sonically and finding their own musical voice without relying on their influences and musical tastes as heavily as before. The sign of a good band is one that continues to explore its roots and yet create its own sound from that history. Calexico is moving in that direction. This album is a marker for the next phase of Calexico. Fans of music and the band should take heart that Burns and Convertino are growing and showing greater musical depth with each release leaving us with hopes for future jems likes this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars similar sound with new music, April 1 2003
By 
Madblather (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
Calexico is a band that cannot be described to those who have not been exposed - and i won't try it here. the editorial review and other reviews above will do better service.
What i do have to say is this: Calexico sounds new on this album. were i to sit down a Calexico newbie and play Spoke and then Feast, i think they would be surprised at the difference between the two.
Feast has much more production effort here as compared to past albums. nowhere on this album is the strange and enthralling despair of Bloodflow, the desperation of Removed, this simple Point Vicente or the frantic atmosphere around Sonic Wind. this is a much more polished album, with slick mariachi - a far cry from the kind of music i'd expect to here at the roadside by a local group of players and from past Calexico albums.
This album will appeal to a wider audience i think, without leaving behind those of use who use them as a yardstick. There are few bands that measure up to what Calexico has achieved with their music. from Giant Sand and OP8 to Calexico, it's hard to name a duo with a better ear or more musical ability.
If you are new to the band, buy this with an older album if only to get a speakerfull of their less flashy and arguably more creative songs (ie Bloodflow, Missing, Slag, The Black Light)
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5.0 out of 5 stars It hasn't left the CD player..., March 30 2003
By 
"jwickham12" (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
that's generally the test of a good recording for me. I've run "Feast of Wire" every day since I picked it up at Calexico's show here in L.A. a few weeks ago. I'm a big fan of the band...I like the slow, thoughtful songs as much as I like the one's with that sharp trumpet punch. Unlike Hot Rail, (which I could listen to all day long...anyone who's driven a desert highway has lived "Fade"), the songs on Feast of Wire are shorter and tighter. Having spent time with the longer pieces on some of their other recordings, its tough for this fan to adjust to these quick pieces, but I'm there.
Calexico has a knack for creating extraordinary musical phrases that attach to your brain. These bits show up on the radio show "This American Life" all the time for just that reason. "Feast of Wire" is filled with them. There have been times in the last week or two where no fewer than three of these songs, parts of them anyway, have been bouncing around my head at the same time. Just try to forget "Attack! El Roboto Attack!".
If you like the experimental stuff Los Lobos puts together, or their side project the Latin Playboys, the music on this or any other Calexico release will probably work for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A bit of everything Calexico has ever done, packed tight in, March 30 2003
By 
Anthony J. Perna "" (Drunken Rural PA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
If you have been following Calexico for some time, picking up the tour discs and eps and singles and whatnot- nothing on this disc, save perhaps "Attack El Robot, Attack!" will come as any huge suprise. Calexico have always dabbled in many genres- these guys are pure musicians- they play essentially without borders, taking their sound wherever their muse points. This is the first time that one of their wide release albums has been so varied, so for some the effect might be a bit dizzying at first, but the band has a cohesive vision, and if you are in tune with that, you'll have no problem.
The real surprise on this disc is the super-tight songcraft, and the incredible production. The instrumentation is denslely interweaved and crystal clear- new layers will reveal themselves with each attentive listen; really incredible. The band says there are hours of leftover material from these sessions, so keep your eyes open! The one downside of the disc, in my opinion, is the vocals. Joey is singing with more nuance than ever before, so it seems a shame that they are often so quiet in the mix. It is doubly so as the lyrics themselves are well crafted portraits of worlds of injustice and loss- and they aren't given with the disc (less you wanna spend for the Japanese disc, I suppose). I'd almost deduct a star for that, but a couple of negatively skewed reivews merit the disc all five from me, if just to restore balance. And if you hunt around online, official lyrics have been pubshed...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pitchforkmedia Review 8.9 out of 10. Exceptional!, March 15 2003
This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
Calexico have always been restless experimenters, juxtaposers and journeymen, crafting a unique fusion of bluesy Mariachi, desert-rock and jazz, and injecting healthy doses of experimentation into the otherwise straightforward records on which they've made guest appearances. Yet, for their innovation and distinctive sound, their albums have always had their weak spots-- moments in which their ideas seemed to be running away with the band's ability to execute them. That time has passed. All of Calexico's previous strengths come home to roost on Feast of Wire, the band pushing their experiments further than ever before and pulling each of them off unfalteringly. In short, Calexico have created their first genuinely masterful full-length, crammed with immediate songcraft, shifting moods and open-ended exploration.
A brief acoustic guitar figure and pounding waltz beat open things at a crisp gait. Joey Burns quickly intones with the lines, "Washed my face in the rivers of empire/ Made my bed with a cardboard crate," immediately establishing the tension of the borderline that pulls Calexico's music in its many directions. Burns is suddenly a singer-- he's always made do with what he had, but the limitations that were once so apparent have developed into a strong and confident tenor, assertive and emotive. The music behind him feels bolder and more courageous, too, as the veil of obscurity that guarded so much of their previous releases has vanished. The detail of this album is utterly stunning, as melodies rise against countermelodies, subtle electronic processing seals guitars in amber, and instruments blend in fascinating and unpredictable ways.
The band keeps things tight and concise across sixteen tracks, and John Convertino's drums corral the rush of sound into all the right spaces, pushing the steel guitar motifs that color the background of "Quattro (World Drifts In)" up to meet Burns' vocals and beating back the bombastic strings that cascade over "Black Heart" like a desert thunderstorm. "Not Even Stevie Nicks" is pristine pop that makes me wish Burns would find more occasions to use his falsetto. It also makes me wish he'd print his lyrics, even if lines like, "With a head like a vulture and a heart full of hornets/ He drives off the cliff into the blue," convey such a rush of emotions that they virtually fill in the blanks by themselves.
He's still full of border stories, too, with narratives like "Across the Wire" packing up tales of dodging the border patrol and leaving everything you know for the abstraction of hope. "Woven Birds" is a hushed reverie for an abandoned mission that even the swallows have left to the ghosts, building to spine-tingling moments where the vocals, Melodica and vibes all meet on the same note and coalesce into a single sound. The piano and strings of "The Book and the Canal" serve as a moody pivot into the album's mostly instrumental second half, though the darkness of that piece is largely swept aside by "Attack El Robot! Attack!", which mashes Pharaoh Sanders, Portuguese guitar and German IDM into a beautiful stew of sci-fi strangeness.
"Dub Latina" and "Crumble" show Calexico burrowing deeper into jazz than ever before, with the latter featuring fluid guitar, trombone and trumpet solos squaring off against each other over a white-hot groove. "Güero Canelo" is a curious flamenco strut built around what sounds like a distorted Speak-n-Spell sample and sliding sound effects, while "Whipping the Horse's Eyes" and the closer, "No Doze", each examine big skies and desert stillness-- one with steel guitar and bowed bass, the other with bowed vibes, nylon strings, static, percussion and steel. Burns is back to a whisper on the closer, but here it strikes as though he's trying not to wake someone sleeping in the room rather than shielding the listener from his limitations.
Calexico have always threatened to make a spectacular record, and even came close on 1998's The Black Light, but having spent the last three years honing their skills has paid off for them in ways no one could have predicted. Feast of Wire calls on a stunning, finely kept arsenal of genres, textures and images to transport you to the Southwest's forgotten places and put you in the shoes of the people who stare across the border in both directions. It is the album we always knew they had in them but feared they would never make.
-Joe Tangari, February 24th, 2003
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5.0 out of 5 stars review of a review of some great musicians, Feb. 26 2003
By 
Charles Floading (Brown Deer, WI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
There are a few reviews here that do a better job describing the music than I can, but I couldn't help but write a rebuttal to the "music fan" whose single star rating for this band seems to come solely from his opinion that "gringos" can't or shouldn't have Hispanic influences in their music. All I can do is roll my eyes. If you flip back through your history book, and you only have to flip a few pages, you'll see that with the exception of possibly food, music is the main blending point between cultures. Sure, sure, the cynics will call it musicians ripping each other off, but in reality, there's a ton of cross pollination that goes on willingly when musicians from different backgrounds meet. Whose to say what's "valid" or not?
Anyway, if you listen to Calexico I think you can say it's flavored with plenty of south of the border flourishes and instrumentation, but it certainly isn't trying to ape another style. The singing has this romantic, kind of creepy low key feel. I was pleased to see (hear) the improvement in the singing. While I still think that Black Light is the most exciting and exotic of their albums, Feast of Wire is made very accessible by singing that's in tune. Rather than sounding like inter-scene music for a southwestern themed film, this album has actual songs -- something that should appeal to folks who like such things. But what do I know, I live over 1000 miles from the (southern) border.
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4.0 out of 5 stars NOT a pop record., Feb. 21 2003
This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
Please don't let other reviews here confuse you. This is NOT a pop record and while a few of the songs may stray somewhat into that territory this is first and foremost a CALEXICO record. Feast of Wire is an eclectic mix of many ethnic and musical influences from all over the map, all kept in check by front men Joey Burns and John Convertino. To compare this recording to Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" is doing it a great disservice. And Calexico doesn't need critical praise heaped upon them (although it is due) nor do they need a nifty band vs. label war story to create interest and boost sales (see Wilco). Joey and John know full well what they are doing and they let the music do the talking. It also doesn't hurt that they have room to roam on their excellent independent Quarter Stick label. Keeping that in mind, the songs "Not even Stevie Nicks..." (a Neil Youngish folk beauty) and "Quattro (World Drifts In)" are about as pop as this record gets. Where the band really shines is on the more complex tracks such as the wonderful Mexican sounding "Guero Canelo" and the cool jazz inspired "Crumble". With a great mixture of both vocal and instrumental tracks arranged with the hand of fine craftsmen Burns and Convertino have managed to refine their craft and create their most accessible work to date. And they do all this without wandering into the experimental or self-indulgent wasteland which has sparked the demise of many bands. Thanks to Calexico, Americana is alive and well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Junkmedia ... Magazine Review, Feb. 18 2003
By 
junkmedia (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Feast Of Wire (Audio CD)
Joey Burns and John Covertino's Calexico was pretty much written off as a sun-baked side project until their sophomore release, The Black Light, appeared on the scene. Taking its cue from Cormac McCarthy's heat-warped perspectives of the American Southwest, the record was neon tumbleweed tequila music that floated above an undercurrent of violence with cinematic grace. It was a major step forward in defining the band's sound and served notice that they would not be following the spaghetti-western chuck wagon. Instead, the album celebrated the magically real convergence of culture that occurs in the borderlands, explicitly linking their name and physical geography to a musical one.
Calexico's third release, The Hot Rail, continued to expand on this formula. It was an album that unfolded with a filmic fluidity to reveal desert noir folk singers and Technicolor mariachi bands playing for pretty girls throwing flowers and men sharpening knives. Not surprisingly, it was their most successful record to date.
Feast of Wire may soon change that, as the band once again ups the ante by widening their scope of sound. Cool West Coast jazz, eerie string sections, and dub are added to the storytelling folk, mariachi horns, kitschy border ballads, and sun-cracked soundscapes that rounded out previous efforts. If that sounds like a handful, it's because it is. Lesser talents wouldn't be able to hold it all together, but Calexico seamlessly blends these disparate parts into one of their most satisfying listens yet.
Sure, with so much to hear and such a range of styles, the album can take a couple of listens before it starts to bloom. That said, after these requisite spins, one can't help but admire how smoothly Feast of Wire glides from track to track, style to style. As on past albums, the band does an excellent job sequencing the record by situating slower instrumental passages between the more traditional songs. These musical bridges help bind the album together and create a total listening experience that is becoming increasingly rare today. For example, after the Marty Robbins-influenced border ballad "Across the Wire," the band segues into "Dub Latina," a trippy, melodica laced instrumental which in turn flows into the rousing "Guero Canelo" with its speak and spell rapping and ebullient background singers. It's a heady mix, and though the three songs couldn't be more different, they end up making a wonderful suite within the record.
Likewise, the gothic, string-laden "Black Heart," which is unlike anything the band has done before, dissolves into pulsing synths at the beginning of "Pepita" before ushering in a multitude of beautifully picked acoustic guitars and a forlorn-sounding pedal steel. The disturbingly pretty pop song "Not Even Stevie Nicks ..." immediately follows, telling the tale of a man driving his car off a cliff and being found later, "in the motor." I guess if the Gold Dust Woman can't help, there's no point in thinking about tomorrow.
And while Feast of Wire continues to reveal new sounds at every turn, the most surprising track on the album comes near the end when the band falls into the cool jazz of "Crumble." It's wholly unexpected, approximating the sound of what Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain would have been like were it a collaboration with Charles Mingus. It's perfectly placed to knock out any last vestiges of resistance, leaving even the most hardened listener to break into a smile.
As the final track, "No Doze," slowly recedes with a moaning cello and static, it becomes crystal clear that Burns and Covertino threw the maps out the window long ago and are blazing their own trail through the musical desert. How could you not want to follow along behind?
-- Barin McGrath
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