Calexico – Garden Ruin

Calexico have cast aside their familiar mariachi brass and pedal steel atmospherics in favour of a more straightforward, song-based approach on fifth album Garden Ruin.

Last year's successful collaboration with folk tunesmith Iron and Wine appears to have encouraged Arizona's Calexico to cast aside their familiar mariachi brass and pedal steel atmospherics in favour of a more straightforward, song-based approach on fifth album Garden Ruin.

The Morricone-influenced instrumental epics of earlier recordings have been replaced by melodic, jangly country-rock numbers such as opener "Cruel", together with a sizeable dose of electric guitar on heavier tracks like "Letter To Bowie Knife".

Only on "Roka (Danza De La Muerte)", featuring Andalucian singer Ampara Sanchez, and the Gotan Project-style modern tango of "Nom De Plume" are Calexico's Latin inflections allowed to take a front seat. Elsewhere, while their trademark violins, trumpets and shuffling percussion do flit unobtrusively in and out of the mix throughout, the band's variety of textures and moods has been significantly pared down in search of a more accessible but ultimately less interesting sound. One could argue that thislack of variety hasbeen replaced by a stronger set of songs than their earlier efforts.

Longer term listening leads to greater enjoyment and rewards.

Beautiful matt gatefold cover with lyrics printed within and extra artwork on the inner sleeve also. The packaging is a work of art in itself. Decent weight vinyl and well pressed. And the usual very good Calexico sound. Possibly a bit clinical but deep and well rounded.

Aerosmith – Draw the Line

Draw the Line is Aerosmiths 5th studio album and was released in June 1977, just one year after their ‘prime record’, Rocks. Considering it to be the follow up the their best rated album, you would have thought it to be again highly rated? Wrong! This album was absolutely slated by the critics, and even to this day is very underrated by fans. The album is built up of simple, yet effective hooks that are really in your face throughout the entrire record.

The trobules occuring back stage most definately contributed to the uniqueness of the album from their previous works. Nothing came similar before it and nothing has come similar since. One of the most noticeable areas where something appeas to be going wrong are in the credits. Where we would normally see most, or all of the songs written by the Tyler/Perry combo, we now only see a mere three. This was an indication of the growing tension between the two band members.

The album was recorded in a disused monastrey in New York state. which has given the recording a very rough sound. The sound of which can be compared to 60’s Rolling Stones records. Although not confirmed it could have been a deliberate attempt to recreate that sound, that the band were inspired by in the earlier days. Either way the sound surely suits the tracks.

The opening track, Draw the line is perhaps the most memorable riff on the album and is a great example of the rough edge to the music. It employs an almost embarrasingly simple guitar riff at a perfect tempo. Brillaint track! Although it’s not Tylers best vocal attempts, without his earthy scream it wouldn’t have the same effect.

The following track, I wanna know why, doesn’t have quite the same appeal as he previous, and Tylers vocals leave a lot to be desired. The track would probalby be much more suited to an instrumental, giveing a chance to hear the guitar and Tylers piano backing.

Critical Mass goes back to the blues/rock combination of their earlier days. Again though, Tyler does let down a little on the vocals, and the guitar is very quiet. As said in other reviews, the guitar seems almost deliberately dampened, which is a shame.

The next track, Get it up is somewhat average but still has a easily memorable melody, and Tylers voacls are slightly clearer but still not up to his standards.

Bright light fright is a refeshing change, with Perry as lead vocals. The track again is a bluesy style, with a wall of sound when played.

The B side starts with a very experimental track, Kings and Queens. It could be experimental rock on its own and has quite an interesting riff and vocals. It is probably the Gem of the record along with Draw the Line. The guitar is very clear on the track and Tylers vocals are much clearer although dampened. The lyrics themselves are also much more creative than the others found on the album and are ib a way, more complex and interesting.

The Hand that Feeds is the follow up and in my opinion is the most underrated track on Draw the line. The tracks main guitar is even simpler than Draw the line if that was ever possible, but the vocals are much more improved and there is a sense of power in there. You feel as though the band are making more of an effort and they really ‘mean it’. Tyler really uses his trademark scream to its full potential to match up to the simple and proud guitar track.

Sight for sore eyes is my personal favourite on the album and performs great live. It has all the catchy elements of the previous tracks but there is again a feeling that the band are performing and mean it. Without Sight for sore eyes the album has the potential to be dull, and for all the negative comments it already receives it would be disasterous. Playing the record through from start to finish, this is the one you always seem to remember, most probably due to the hypnotic chorus, melody at the end.

To conclude the record is the Milk Cow Blues, a cover of a blues track that is well executed from the original. Again, very catchy and the guitar is brilliant from start to end. The album probably wouldn’t miss this song but it is a great addition never the less.

Although I admit it is perhaps not their best work it is very underrated and deserves much more credit. Without it who knows where the band would be now?

I reccomend this to any rock lover and I advise you hear it on an analogue recording, whether it be record or cassette just to give it an extra raw sound.



Dead can dance – Into the Labyrinth

Although they'd been around for more than a decade Into the labyrinth became and still is the best selling album by the Dead can dance.A million seller in the US it was also the best selling album of label 4ad (who also had the 
pixies on their roster). Into the labyrinth crystalised the blend of folk from around the world, that

 now sits so comfortably on many a film score. Lisa Gerrard has gone to see much acclaim for her film scores for the likes of Gladiator and Whale Rider. In Dead can dance her tracks are nicely compemented by the more song led and english lyrics(not to mention more western style music) of Brendan Perry. The two do collaborate across all tracks though and have a host of excellent musicians backing them up.

Not only is the choice of music often inspired but the muscianship is first rate and the sound quality is stunningly impressive. That statement holds not only for their studio releases but also for their concerts, in person and recorded.

WHat they do lack is a certain spontanaeity or affinity with their audience. Lisa Gerrard in particular seems more like an automatic performer than an entertainer or human being. Brendan Perry can however establish a rapport with his audience and on record actually sings with more feeling. This despite the ethereal echo and effects that continually surround him.

But this or one of their later albums(Toward the within or Spiritchaser) is an essential purchase. Not only will it impress your friends when they call but it will impress yourself each and every time you put it on.

Variously we have tunes from or inspired by Persia, Africa(I know its a continent), Ireland. Highlights are Yulunga which open the album and also opens the film Baraka. The carnival is
over is a classic song from Brendan Perry.

In general an otherworldly musical experience, haunting vocals from both, striking instrumental sounds, like rattlesnakes and varied wonderful natural percussion.

The album was recorded in a church and as mentioned sounds stunning. Packaging and vinyl are, as always from 4ad, most appealing. The covers look and feel gorgeous. Slightly matt paper with striking artwork. Inner picture sleeves with lyrics. Vinyl is heavy and beautifully pressed, an hour of music spread across four sides of vinyl.