Calexico - Garden Ruin

Mike Mantin 03/04/2006

Rating: 4/5

You never know what you're going to get with Calexico, so it's a testament to their ambition that it's rather surprising when they turn in a more direct rock effort in 'Garden Ruin'. There's no electronics, and the Tex-Mex influence is turned right down (except on the centrepiece 'Roka' which, unfortunately, is the most skippable track on here). Clearly, the aim here is great songwriting, as seen on the direct impact of standout songs like opener 'Cruel', the achingly beautiful, acoustic 'Yours And Mine' and 'All Systems Red', which ladles a bit of anger at the Bush regime.

But upping the commercial factor hasn't caused 'Garden Ruin' to be obsessed with laid-back country. Though the likes of 'Brisbee Blue' and 'Lucky Dime' demonstrate sublimely breezy alt-country pop, they're unafraid of rocking out, as seen on 'Letter To Bowie Knife' which sees Calexico unleashing a delightfully darker edge. The closing 'All Systems Red', too, delivers an epic climax, and 'Nom De Plume' has some effective, breathy French vocals. Now more accessible but still refusing to follow trends, 'Garden Ruin' only continues Calexico's ascent into the indie elite.