This is the kind of music that chancer film directors die for: Music that makes everything accompanying it seem interesting. I personally washed dishes, read the Evening Herald and hung curtains to the strains of Calexico, and found that by proxy all these activities became infused with intrigue and mystery. "The Black Light" is a pair of rose-tinted glasses that can make the banalities of life poignant and significant.
Calexico are the rhythm section of the seminal Giant Sands, and their name is a fusion of the names: California and Mexico. As this might suggest, they make wonderful, lazy, mariachi-tinged country music. They use guitar, pedal steel, accordions and trumpets, and for the most part the album has an instrumental feel. When vocals appear (first on track 3 and on about a third of the tracks) they sing of bars, and hotels, and love, and leaving, and we can see gathering storm clouds and dusty roadways.
The key to Calexico's evocative sound is their rediscovery of musical suspense. They have an incredible sense of tone and texture, which means that musical-phrases bear up beautifully to repetition, long after we should have tired of them. A far cry from pop-music's usual head-over-heels rush to get to a chorus, Calexico choose instead to gently wax and wane. Each section of music bears as much stress, and seems just as important as the last, saving us the disappointment that usually comes with those functional and turgid bits between choruses. As such, each moment you listen to this album seems a little bit precious.
Calexico are one of those rare bands that remind you of possibilities contemporary music seems to have forgotten. Music is not just for nightclubs, or depression, or coming down. Music is for life. Calexico are so damn good, they'll make the quality of your life better. I'm off to clean the drains!
by Patrick Freyne