"A band has got to keep changing and moving or it will get boring and break
up," says Calexico's John Convertino. Fortunately Calexico have barely stopped
moving for ten years. The distances they have traveled over the years are
apparent on Garden Ruin. For this new recording, the band brought in producer JD
Foster and relocated from Tucson to Bisbee, AZ.
Inspired by their surroundings, the band explored musical avenues that they had
previously left untouched. "This album was a conscious decision to try something
new and tap into strains in our musical fabric that haven't been highlighted in
the past," comments Joey Burns. The fabric he refers to is still inherent in
their music, of course, the band has always admitted influences as diverse as
Portuguese fado, 50's jazz, gypsy or romani music, 60's surf and twang, the
spaghetti western epics of Ennio Morricone and dark indie rock singer
songwriters like Smog, Richard Buckner, Will Oldham and Vic Chestnutt. But this
album, he states, "turned out to be more about songs, songs that didn't
necessarily go back to the same pool of influences as before."
This is no doubt one reason why Garden Ruin seems a more accessible album. Where
the open blue skies of the landscapes they chronicled before were normally
tempered by the smoky dark blues of their jazz influences, Garden Ruin is
musically brighter, though this time the skies are tempered by a darker lyrical
content in which "Birds refuse to fly / No longer trust the sky". Opener "Cruel"
is a case in point, it's potent melody and almost uplifting arrangement masking
stories "that break like branches in the cold". Closing track "All Systems Red"
is massive, guitars surging around Burns as he howls in a way that will be as
surprising to those who followed the band throughout their career as to the late
converts brought in by their cover of Love's "Alone Again Or".
Lyrically, too, the album sees Burns taking a left turn, addressing contemporary
America rather than the mythical America that always previously inspired him.
Stories of the little man are now set alongside far more personal insights into
Burns' world view. "There is much more of an influence of the current state of
affairs in the lyrics on this album than before," Burns believes.
Put succinctly, Garden Ruin is where Calexico fill those dusty, empty landscapes
they documented with a big, big sound...
• Limited Edition
• Includes a coupon for free download of entire album in MP3 format, plus bonus
MP3's of tracks not included on the album
2. Yours and Mine
3. Bisbee Blue
4. Panic Open String
5. Letter to Bowie Knife
7. Lucky Dime
9. Deep Down
10. Nom De Plume
11. All Systems Red