¿Donde esta Mexico? is both basic Spanish and a question fans might ask about Calexico’s latest album, The Thread That Keeps Us.
When describing Calexico’s music to a friend recently, I said something like – “hard to pin down, a little indie-rock, a little surf-rock, sometimes in the world of Wilco, but always with a Mexican influence.” When my friend then lifted an eyebrow, I added “…think horns. Horns, bit of mariachi…. You’ll love them” Really, I thought, it’s right there in their name.
However, the latest release from Calexico– The Thread That Keeps Us – keeps you guessing as it wanders back and forth across the Rio Grande and to parts previously unknown.
Well into their third decade, and now with seven beds on the tourbus, Calexico was founded by Joey Burns and John Convertino in 1990; they were formerly members of a band delightfully called Friends of Dean Martin and later, even better, The Friends of Dean Martinez. That Mexican musical influence is strong on each of the previous eight studio albums, and longtimers would be upset if they didn’t hear it on Thread.
You will. Fans of the trademark Calexico sound will especially enjoy “Voices in the Field”, and the lovely Spanish-language “Flores y Tamales” sung by guitarist/jack of all trades Jairo Zavala, and “Bridge to Nowhere”.
However, there is a different flavor provided by the Beatles-esque (hang on, maybe it’s solo George Harrison I’m thinking of?) sweetness found in the track “Girl in the Forest”, and also in the 70s vibe of “The Town & Miss Lorraine.” Here’s a link to their wonderful performance of that song on a CBS morning show. Very chill, very Sunday morning, and it reminded me of JD Souther. There are more sonic tastes to sample – “End of the World With You” sounds like it could have been on the Reality Bites soundtrack. And then to keep you on your toes, “Another World” pulls a funk version reminiscent of The Who’s “Eminence Front”. Not the usual offerings from this band.
Review: The Thread That Keeps Us
Little rest stops in the album are provided by efficient instrumentals every few songs, but there is a bit of bumpy road to navigate with “Under the Wheels” – a song I can’t honestly decide if I hate or love. I guess I’ll see what happens when I see the band live – will this be my concession stand song? And the quietly political lyrics that run through the album get a little more overt in the dark “Dead In The Water” (hmm, who IS that giant bully with toxic blood that threatens to “take you and the whole world with me”?)
The septet have worked with their longtime engineer Craig Schumacher to produce The Thread That Keeps Us, but providing something not-too-expected was the plan. “There’s a little more chaos and noise in the mix than what we’ve done in the past,” Joey Burns pointed out. “Whenever we’re writing and we come up with something that feels too familiar, someone will end up saying, ‘That feels good, but let’s keep going and see what else we can uncover’. It’s been really important to the arc of this band’s evolution for us to always keep on trying new things.”
Released by Anti-Records and Berlin-based City Slang, The Thread That Keeps Us will give long-time fans enough new attitude to get them talking, while not straying too far from that classic border sound. Whether you are an old amigo or like my friend, ready to see your first show, you’re in for a treat as the band delivers live. Tour dates below.
Selected Calexico Tour Dates
• Saturday 10 March 2018 Tempodrom, Berlin, Germany
• Sunday 11 March 2018 Muffathalle, Munich, Germany
• Tuesday 13 March 2018 Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, Italy
• Wednesday 14 March 2018 Alcatraz, Milan, Italy
• Friday 16 March 2018 Estragon, Bologna, Italy
• Saturday 17 March 2018 Fri-Son, Fribourg, Switzerland
• Sunday 18 March 2018 X-TRA, Zürich, Switzerland
• Monday 19 March 2018 Posthof, Linz, Austria
• Wednesday 21 March 2018 Im Wizemann, Stuttgart, Germany
• Thursday 22 March 2018 Epicerie Moderne, Lyon, France
• Friday 23 March 2018 E-Werk, Cologne, Germany
• Saturday 24 March 2018 De Roma, Borgerhout, Belgium
• Sunday 25 March 2018 Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands
• Tuesday 27 March 2018 Élysée Montmartre, Paris, France
• Wednesday 28 March 2018 Trinity Centre, Bristol, UK
• Thursday 29 March 2018 O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK
• Thursday 19 April 2018 Tricky Falls, El Paso, TX, US
• Friday 20 April 2018 Old Settlers Music Fest, Dale, TX, US
• Saturday 21 April 2018 The Vanguard, Tulsa, OK, US
• Sunday 22 April 2018 Duck Room, Blueberry Hill, St Louis, MO, US
• Monday 23 April 2018 Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis, MN, US
• Wednesday 25 April 2018 Thalia Hall, Chicago, IL, US
• Thursday 26 April 2018 The Woodward Theater, Cincinnati, OH, US
• Friday 27 April 2018 Lincoln Theatre, Washington, DC, US
• Saturday 28 April 2018 Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, US
• Sunday 29 April 2018 The Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY, US
• Tuesday 01 May 2018 The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA, US
• Wednesday 02 May 2018 World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA, US
• Thursday 03 May 2018 The Jefferson Theater, Charlottesville, VA, US
• Monday 07 May 2018 Terminal West, Atlanta, GA, US
• Tuesday 08 May 2018 Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN, US
• Saturday 26 May 2018 Avila Beach Golf Resort, Avila Beach, CA, US
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.