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Alejandro Escovedo
The Boxing Mirror
Back Porch Records/ Narada

Any and all attempts to classify or aptly describe Alejandro Escovedo's latest CD, The Boxing Mirror, are hopelessly inadequate. Produced by The Velvet Underground's John Cale, The Boxing Mirror finds Escovedo and company delving into the worlds of avant-rock and post-punk. But even these descriptors fall short. In fact, the sole cohesive threads throughout The Boxing Mirror are experimentation and disillusionment, yet these facets are enough somehow to produce a cohesive collection.

The Boxing Mirror begins with the melancholic "Arizona," an introspective tale of love and loss that finds the narrator facing his demons and himself. "I turned my back on me/and I faced the face of who I thought I was," Escovedo wails over sinister strings, crunchy guitars, and haunting synthesizers. The cello- and bass-driven "Dear Head on the Wall" and the Crazy Horse-inspired rocker "Notes On Air" (which originally appeared on 2004's 13 Ways to Live compilation) both feature oblique, yet poetic lyrics by Escovedo's wife, Kim Christoff. The '80s synth-pop of "Looking For Love" is possibly the album's only weak point. To be certain, the musical aspects of the song fit quite well with the overall spirit of experimentation that permeates The Boxing Mirror, but the lyrics are at times overly simplistic and the slower portions of the song lack the rock groove present throughout the album.

"The Ladder" finds Escovedo returning to top lyrical form, however. A Tejano-flavored waltz consisting mostly of accordion and acoustic guitar, "The Ladder" is a straightforward, but poetic love song that is perhaps the least rock-inspired track on The Boxing Mirror. "Break This Time," by contrast, is an '80s-esque rocker reminiscent of The Cars' early work, while "Evita's Lullaby" is a rhapsodic folk-rock love song imbued with a deep sense of loss that is heightened by the accompanying mournful string arrangements. The three-chord post-punk disenchantment of "Sacramento and Polk" is followed by the mellow tremolo guitar and sophisticated strings of "Died a Little Today."

The Boxing Mirror concludes with the improvised pop-rocker "Take Your Place" and the heartbreaking title ballad. The former is a rather direct song about the end of a relationship that has the flavor of early Prince recordings, while the latter features military-style drums, dreamy keyboard flourishes, and lyrics rife with devastation. In fact, the title track could easily be an allegory for many circumstances in life, from battles we wage in our day-to-day lives to the unwanted and unnecessary wars our government forces on us.

For all of the disparate musical styles sampled by Cale and Escovedo, The Boxing Mirror is a unified album that is anchored by an ethereal quality, an ambience, a mercurialness. Musically ineffable and lyrically recondite, The Boxing Mirror is easily the album of Escovedo's career to date, as well as one of the best CDs of 2006.

-Tracy M. Rogers

Track Listing:
1. Arizona
2. Dearhead On the Wall
3. Notes On Air
4. Looking For Love
5. The Ladder
6. Break This Time
7. Evita's Lullaby
8. Sacramento and Polk
9. I Died A Little Today
10. Take Your Place
11. The Boxing Mirror

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