Music

Calexico Expands Their Sound with Reggae and Latin Horns on "Under the Wheels" (Singles Going Steady)

Photo: Chris Hinkle

If any band understands how to expand their sound without losing the brilliant essence of the band, it's Calexico.

Jonathan Frahm: When it comes to Calexico, I can't help but feel a little pride whenever new music hits national airwaves. They do our city of Tucson proud. There's plenty of that southwestern influence that the Old Pueblo can claim interlaced throughout "Under the Wheels", too, from the video's ever-presented psychedelic Calavera to the tune's mariachi horn section. The rocking groove of the track indicates some reggae vibes, too, indicating that the ever-moving roots band is looking to evolve its sound once more. Again, they do so with effortless finesse, and it's as easy a listen as it is a layered, cerebral wonderland of sound. [9/10]

Paul Carr: If any band understands how to expand their sound without losing the brilliant essence of the band, it's Calexico. "Under the Wheels" is a swinging, Latin-infused slice of indie rock that in lesser hands could sound forced and strained. Here the band marries the disparate elements together perfectly whilst retaining the impression of underlying chaos. It's a testimony to the power and joy of experimentation. [8/10]

Chris Ingalls: I'm admittedly pretty ignorant on the subject of Calexico, so I can't compare it to the rest of their catalog. This is a lot more pop-friendly than I was expecting, but the song is nicely layered despite a somewhat misleading dance beat. The Latin horn accents add yet another dimension. A little too short; it could've benefited from a solo or some extended instrumentation, but overall this is good stuff. [7/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: It's always nice to see a lyric video with visuals worth watching. Aside from that, Calexico spins a typically high-quality tune, brass and backbeats dressing up laid-back, mid-tempo rock and roll. A standout? Maybe not for everyone, but a good track, and one that whets my appetite for the full album. [7/10]

Tristan Kneschke: Sugar skulls dance in Calexico's latest, "Under the Wheels". Lyrics dance over the trippy animated bones to a shuffling beat and ambiguously restrained lyrics. It's the tone of frustration, which clarifies by the song's chorus. "Under the wheels / Of the war machine / Always someone else's scheme." We realize that no matter how much one dresses up a skull, it still symbolizes death, increasingly at the hands of other humans. [6/10]

Steve Horowitz: A jaunty little tune about living in wartime. It's easy to forget that there are generations of people who have never lived in a world without conflict. The beats and horns bolster one's spirits. But there is something missing here. Despite the hooks, there is nothing that grabs. That's the point, we are crushed beneath the wheels, that makes sense — but as Van Morrison said on the same topic, "Don't let the bastards grind you down." Calexico is more accepting of our collective fate. [7/10]

John Garratt: The vibrant chorus makes up for the blank-stare, do-nothing verses. But as far as choruses go, I forgot how it went just a few minutes after walking away. I'd like to say something like "Calexico is capable of much more", but maybe this is the best they can do. [6/10]

Ljubinko Zivkovic: Lyric videos have become quite a vehicle for an artist to fully present their message within a song and let the listeners/viewers sing along. Calexico manages that effectively for probably the best song on an album that certainly is not among their better ones. Great use of the Mexican mask theme with the lyrics that are still easy to catch. [8/10]

Christopher Thiessen: More bleak indie rock about the world coming apart and hoping for peace. While the Tex-Mex flavor of Calexico does add a bit of perspective to the issues, especially those centered around immigration, it does seem just to be adding to the noise in this case. Complaining about the state of the present without offering suggestions for change is getting fairly old. [5/10]

Robert Evers: Sounds like something that could be a summer jam. [7/10]

Jedd Beaudoin: A little too disjointed (and this coming from a guy who loves disjointed). The whole fuzzy vocal thing seems contrived, doesn't work. It's, like, "Dude, tune your radio." Still, I like Calexico too much to trash it totally. [6/10]

SCORE: 6.90

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