If Calexico were a movie instead of a band, it would be Orson Welles' Touch of Evil – a taut, arty thriller set in a Southwestern border town, full of long shadows and obtuse angles, where evil wears a badge, good men die like dogs, and everyone gets what's coming to him or her in the end. For going on 16 years, Calexico has been trafficking a brand of indie rock aptly described as desert noir - a distinctive blend of spicy mariachi flourishes, campfire cowboy folk, midcentury modern jazz, and panoramic post-rock.
Calexico is piloted by the duo of singer/guitarist Joey Burns - who narrates the songs' pulp-fiction plotlines with a shivery whisper of a voice - and drummer John Covertino, quite possibly the fleetest beatmaker in modern indie rock. If their albums never quite rise above three-star ratings, the live show - where Calexico bulks up to to a seven-piece of gifted multi-instrumentalists outfitted with horns, lap steel, vibes, accordion, piano, and upright bass - is always a five-star affair. That was again the case Friday when Calexico's current tour in support of the just-released Algiers stopped at Union Transfer.