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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-4 of 4 reviews(4 star). See all 25 reviews
on June 2, 2003
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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on February 21, 2003
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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on February 18, 2003
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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on February 11, 2004
I started listening to this band with their Black Light CD which got under my skin. Songs like 'Fade', made me realize their brilliance. When my brother sent me this CD I was a little disappointed. It didn't seem to grow on me as quickly. At first my favorite tracks were only the instrumental #5, Pepita and the falsettoish #6 Not even stevie nicks. After repated listens I realized the song Quattro was absolutly spellbinding. The chours makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It's very beautiful. Definetely an album that requires many listens.
Apparently this band is so amazing live and that makes them more accessible if you see them. It does have its weak points toward the end but all in all not a bad one.
Oh and (P.S., I saw an addidas commercial recently that has the song Pepita playing in the background while Ali is taking a jog. I was excited to see such an unknown band getting their song played on television. Look out for it!)
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