Much of Calexico's Garden Ruin is bland and muted. Many of its songs are slow and sonorous, but not in a good way. It isn't because of Joey Burns's small, unassuming voice, which is evocative in a heartfelt way, nor is it the band's musical abilities, which are sharp. It's the musical choices the band makes from the soft, skittering drums and lazy violin that floats around "Bisbee Blue " like a thick fog, to the pleasantly anonymous "Lucky Dime." There aren't enough flat-out rockers like "Letter to Bowie Knife" or "Roka," which nods toward Calexico's past triumphs by creating a rich cross section of norteño and outlaw folk. For all the reportedly "punk" origins of its band members, Calexico isn't a raucously loud band, and is typically more focused on texture and subtlety than obvious, grand gestures. But Garden Ruin is too safely middle-of-the-road, even for them.
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