They've always been known for the Southwestern flavor they bring to the indie-rock table — mariachi horns, spaghetti Western ambiance, the kind of sound that says "Why, yes, in fact, we are from Tucson." By the time they got to Garden Ruin, though, the members of Calexico were in the mood to shake things up a bit, go heavy on the straight-up rock 'n' roll songs, easy on the mariachis, and maybe whisper things in French instead of Spanish. As singer/guitarist Joey Burns says, "It was fun to say 'OK, we're definitely known for this one certain aspect of our sound. Now why not challenge that?'" They haven't turned their backs completely on the spirit of those early records. "Roka (Danza de la Muerte)" is a dark spaghetti-Western-flavored mood piece with guest vocals sung in Spanish. But the track that hits the hardest is "All Systems Red," the explosive guitar-driven epic that closes the disc like Calexico's answer to Crazy Horse, as Burns weighs in on life during wartime with "Just when you think it couldn't get much worse/Watch the numbers rise on the death toll/And the chimes of freedom flash and fade."


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