Calexico quickly followed their excellent Feast of Wire album with the Convict Pool EP, a collection of covers and original songs that all bear the stamp of the band's dramatic Southwestern sound. The EP kicks off with their version of the Love classic "Alone Again Or," which, along with the title track, was also released as a single in Europe in 2003. Recruiting Swedish singer Nicolai Dunger, Calexico build on the mariachi theme of the original and also give their rendition a more subdued feel. It may not have the heartbreaking drama of Love's rendition, but this version is more than just an experiment and works well on its own terms. The EP's title track, meanwhile, is in keeping with the softer, more singer/songwriter-oriented side of their music, which they explored on Feast of Wire with great success. Joey Burns' pleading vocals and John Convertino's wonderfully expressive -- but not flashy -- drumming come to the fore on this track as well as their cover of Francoiz Breut's "Si Tu Desais." The second half of Convict Pool lightens up with the rowdy cover of the Minutemen's "Corona," a staple of Calexico's live set, the Eastern European-inspired "Praskovia," and "Sirena," a theatrical original with Spanish backing vocals done by some lovely senoritas. These tracks have more of a "throwaway" feel than the first half of Convict Pool, but it's still a joy to hear Calexico in a looser and more playful mood. That playful mood extends to the EP's multimedia content, an animated short from The Cartoon Network called El Kabong Rides Again that features The Black Light's "Minas del Cobre" as its soundtrack. While this isn't quite as essential a Calexico release as Feast of Wire, Convict Pool is a lot of fun and one of the best short-format works they've issued yet.
Convict Pool Review
by Heather Phares