The Thread That Keeps Us is album number 9 from Arizona duo Calexico. This album finds the band newly inspired by the North Californian coast where it was recorded. Taking all we know and love about Calexico, giving it a rougher edge, and increasingly confident songwriting has helped Joey Burns and John Convertino reach a new high benchmark in their career.
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Although Calexico once had their poster placed pride of place above my toilet it was more because I liked the image rather than their music. They are one of those groups who plod along effectively but you'll never get so much as a slither of excitement of them. Their desert blues has aged nicely though and 'The Thread that Keeps Us' opens strongly with 'End of the World With You' - a kind of sunburnt U2 full of chugging acoustic guitars and atmospheric guitar tones. Perfect Richard Skinner Afternoon Show fodder. I'm also enjoying 'Bridge to Nowhere' which has some nice descending Radiohead-ish guitars and some wandering Radiohead style vocals. In fact it all sounds a bit like a Radiohead that has been left out in the desert heat.
These succinct rock tunes and the slo-mo ballads (more about them later) are perfectly enjoyable. It's when Calexico stretch out into other areas that problems rear their heads. 'Under the Wheels' features a funky drum beat, mariarchi horns and a rap as if to show that the band are capable of being 'edgy' but all it does is show that they are better when sticking to a more classic formula. As if to underline this in triplicate they then showcase 'The Town and Miss Lorraine' an effortless Everly Brothers ballad that needs no bells and whistles to make it's point. They get to 'Flores Y Tamalas' before they let slip their hispanic influences and unless you are a fan of Los Lobos you'll probably be skipping by this point.
And that's 'The Thread That Keeps Us' in a nutshell, there are some really good moments but Calexico are sometimes undone by the scale of the own ambition. Knock several tracks off and they may have just made their classic.
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