Calexico – The Black Light (20th Anniversary Edition)

Calexico's first big statement, The Black Light, celebrates its 20th anniversary and continues to inspire devotion. It's just a pity Breaking Bad wasn't around in 1998

Album Review by Alan O'Hare | 21 Nov 2018
  • Calexico – The Black Light (20th Anniversary Edition)
Album title: The Black Light (20th Anniversary Edition)
Artist: Calexico
Label: City Slang
Release date: 23 Nov

For a record to remain interesting 20 years after its release is one thing. For that record to be predominately an instrumental work, from a band entering a 'real' studio for the first time, and for it to still take up space in people's hearts is quite another. But that's Calexico for you: inspiring devotion whenever they play. Some bands just encourage acolytes – you know the type, fans who insist their band is the best. Calexico inspire such devotion because of the tender and loving care they put into recording albums.

The Black Light, first released in 1998 on Quarterstick Records, was the Arizona-based post-rockers second album, and one that captured hearts and minds immediately. Its wide open spaces and thrift store orchestra sound revealed a group of Tex-Mex melody makers who were in love with Morricone-esque strings, mariachi horns and cheap-sounding rattle'n'roll acoustic instruments. Songs such as Minas De Cobre (For Better Metal) would have made the perfect soundtrack to any Breaking Bad season finale – had it been around back in 1998 – while the likes of Missing and Over Your Shoulder are the perfect scene setters for the books of new wave Americana fiction writers like Willy Vlautin and Nickolas Butler.

Evocative as The Black Light is, it's a heavy listen and struggles under the familiarity of its own weight sometimes. But, small quibbles aside, it remains a statement-and-a-half from a band who have gone on to make many more since. The Black Light was Calexico's first big shot across the bow and it connected with everyone listening. That's all you can ask any record to do.

Listen to: Minas De Cobre (For Better Metal), Missing, Over Your Shoulder