In the nearly 20 years since their debut, Tucson group Calexico have made some outstanding albums, weaving together roots sounds, Americana and Tex-Mex. On their first album since 2012’s New Orleans-themed Algiers, they make what is (surprisingly, given their influences) their first ever trip to Mexico City to bring us Edge of the Sun.
The best of the souveneirs they have brought back are two tracks in the Mexican Mariachi style. Lead single ‘Cumbia de Donde’ is a breathtaking spectacle of Latin American-flavoured pop. Its Mariachi vibe is pure entertainment, and there’s a wonderful dynamic shift with the introduction of Spanish language lifting the album to another place. Later on in the record, ‘Coyoacan’ returns to similar themes. Calexico are not just paying tribute to a genre they appreciate, and arguably their two forays into the genre are the best things on the album.
And they’re needed, too. Edge of the Sun is a record which sees the band starting to embrace middle age, although with the accompanying danger of MOR that brings. There are still the familiar flourishes of rasping brass and sweeping strings, but some of the energy is gone, with too much of it lacking the zest and spark that ‘Cumbia de Donde’ offers. ‘Bullets and Rocks’ feels as thought its wings have been clipped, while ‘Miles From The Sea’ lacks vitality. The slowing of the pace is not entirely a bad thing – ‘Tapping On The Line’ slowly carries the listener to a place of hope and magic, soothing and elegant – but these moments are too few on the record, and you’re left feeling that the album fails to match what has come before. This wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t know they were capable of more.
Edge of the Sun is a slightly odd affair, then. At its peak, it’s fantastic, but in its troughs it sounds as if the essence of Calexico is becoming diluted. The brilliance of the best of this album deserved better than that.