Feast of Wire does indeed offer a tantalizing array of sounds new and old from Calexico, including more pop-oriented takes on their already eclectic style as well as some different sonic twists. Though the album features plenty of the atmospheric interludes of their previous work -- such as the squelchy, piano-based "Stucco" and the cello- and pedal-steel-driven "Whipping the Horse's Eye" -- the overall feel of Feast of Wire is one of restraint and refinement. The album's longest song, the gorgeous, film noir/spaghetti western fusion "Black Heart," tops out at just under five minutes, and the vast majority of the tracks barely make it past the three-minute mark -- not enough time for experimentation to turn into self-indulgence. However, it feels like these shorter compositions have more impact: "Sunken Waltz" sketches a vignette of Southwestern despair with just acoustic guitar, brushed drums, accordion, and Joey Burns' papery vocals. Burns' voice plays a larger part on Feast of Wire than on previous Calexico albums, adding a humble charm to sweeping songs like "Quattro (World Drifts In)." Despite its seeming limitations, Burns' small, parched-sounding instrument is surprisingly versatile, lending a Dylan-like cast to the aforementioned "Black Heart" and a Dean Wareham-like drawl to the lilting Tex-Mex melody of "Across the Wire." Burns' vocals also dominate Feast of Wire's most uniquely accessible moments: "Stevie Nicks," a surprisingly, sunny bit of folk-rock, and the quiet, alt-country-ish "Woven Birds." But despite the steps forward Calexico makes on this album, the band still has time for their more traditional, instrumental-based music, exemplified here by "Dub Latina," "Pepita," and "Guero Canelo." The second half of Feast of Wire in particular sounds more like what you'd expect from a Calexico album, and the group touches on the different facets of that style, including the kitschy-cool "Attack el Robot! Attack," which with its crunchy drums and gurgling synths, does sort of sound like it could be from a Mexican sci-fi movie; the shuffling Latin beat, pedal steel, and mod horns on "Close Behind" give it a Morricone-meets-mariachi feel that makes it a quintessential Calexico track; and best of all, "Crumble" builds on the smoky, jazzy side of their sound that they began developing in earnest on The Hot Rail. In the hands of a lesser band, all the different sounds Calexico explore on Feast of Wire could result in a mish-mash of an album, but fortunately for them and their fans, it's one of their most accomplished and exciting efforts.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares