And so Tuscan Arizona's finest return with their forth full length album, a sprawling record of alt-country and mariachi soundscapes.
It begins traditionally enough with the Buckleyesque affair that is 'Sunken Waltz' but the first sign of the Latino influences which distance them from their peers surfaces in the trumpets of the second track 'Quattro (World Drifts In)'. Calexico's songs are stories from the border, Mexico as much a feature as the US of A. But unlike, say a Bonny Prince Billy, the sound does not reflect the tumbleweed and railroad track barrenness of the Southwest; it is too warm and lush for that. 'Black Heart', is a classic example of this, its strings ebb and flow Joey Burns' voice plaintiff and sweet. 'Not Even Stevie Nicks', tuneful simplicity is the perfect contrast to the literary bent of the lyrics; "With a head like a vulture and a heart full of hornets he drives off the cliff into the blue" this after all is a band who cite the author Cormac McCarthy as a key inspiration.
Things wane midway through and you feel as if the album would benefit if trimmed down from its weighty sixteen songs. 'The Book and the Canal' a throwaway instrumental jazz interlude, is incongruously followed by the weak 'Attack El Robot! Attack!' a difficult to stomach blend of lounge, country, and techno (yes really!). Things pick up again with 'Across the Wire', where classic country and western guitar and 'Forever Changes' trumpets provide the backdrop to the story of a man on the run from border control. Disappointingly, more forgettable instrumentals follow, but all is forgotten with the majestic finale provided by 'No Doze', an incredible combination of post rock rumblings, Nick Drake guitar, and sad strings. Mid way through a voice, suddenly and surprisingly, appears from the dark a whisper on the black tide; "you'll find us here," it says. Then feedback, then silence.
So 'Feast of Wire' is overlong, inconsistent, and occasionally self-indulgent but look close enough and there are jewels therein.