The Boxing Mirror
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2006, Volume 13, #5
Written by John Metzger
Viewed strictly from a sonic perspective, the union of songwriter Alejandro Escovedo with producer John Cale is a match made in Heaven. In fact, their collaboration on The Boxing Mirror is so well-balanced and complementary that anyone familiar with the work of either artist can identify, with the utmost precision, the seam at which their visions come together as one. Throughout the set, Cale suitably surrounds Escovedo’s melange of folk, blues, and punk with an array of emotion-enhancing effects that enliven the disorienting chaos of transient living outlined on Sacramento & Polk, exude a bittersweet ache on the reflective I Died a Little Today, and cast a spectral shadow across Arizona’s tale of death and rebirth.
Since crafting A Man under the Influence, his career-defining set from five years ago, Escovedo has been reborn. Not only did he manage to defy death, but he also lost his father, recovered from his addiction to alcohol, fell in love, and started a family. This is a lot for one man to experience in such a short period of time, and not surprisingly, everything through which Escovedo has been of late establishes the conflict that permeates The Boxing Mirror. The title track references the battle that rages inside his soul, while the outing as a whole oscillates among dueling pairs of images: inebriation and abstinence, reality and illusion, life and death.
With so much ground to cover, it isn’t surprising that The Boxing Mirror suffers under the weight of its issues. Understandably, Escovedo is still trying to come to terms with everything he has faced, and his confusion can be heard in both his lyrics and in the disorienting music that he and Cale concocted for the affair. Escovedo’s attempt to address everything in one fell swoop certainly is as admirable as it is ambitious, and for a moment, he nearly succeeds. Ultimately, though, the distillation of his experiences establishes a thematic arc that is too disjointed to function properly. Despite its missteps, however, The Boxing Mirror’s songs — which include the unnerving, death-stalked spasms of Deerhead on the Wall and the mournful elegance of Evita’s Lullaby — easily rank among the best that Escovedo has ever penned. ˝
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box