June 28, 2004

Call and Response "Winds take no shape"

After three years, Call and Response have released their second full-length. For those of you who have never heard of them, Call and Response is an indie pop band whose first album was released on Kindercore, and then reissued on Emperor Norton. The amazing thing about Call and Response's first album was that it was indie pop mixed with elements that were never before combined with indie pop (and haven't been since). For Call and Response was the very first twee pop band to get funky. By funky, I mean that they had a definite '70s funk and disco influence. Very danceable. But their lyrics were about the twee subjects of rollerskating, blowing bubbles with bubblegum, and love. They had a great sound, and I bet their live shows were spectacular orgies of funked-out disco dancing.

So, let's pop in this new album now. That's strange, my posterior is remaining stationary. I don't feel like dancing. And what's this mellow jangle pop coming out of the speakers? Did I put in the right CD.

Unfortunately, it is the right CD.

The Call and Response on this new album are different from the Call and Response on their self-titled debut three years ago. Instead of fun twee-funk, Winds Take No Shape finds the band in a "serious" mode. The twee is all but ripped away from their music now. There are no upbeat songs on this album, it's all-low key, somewhat ambient jangle pop.

Honestly, it's not bad. The vocals (all female) are beautifully done, especially the two-part harmonies. The music is well-played and very relaxing. It's great chill-out music. I wouldn't have the heart to get rid of this album.

As for the lyrics, I don't know if I like them as much as the music. They've abandoned the direct bubblegum approach to lyric writing in their first album and have gone more abstract. Here's a little snippet from "Colors Bleed", the first song on the album: "Numbers are counted wrong / Couldn't make time for me / Didn't need to be listening / No sound is noise / Forsaking medicine / Feel a change happening / Through the window of a plane / Driven out of the air / Looking backward the mind sees (mind sees) / All that's inside and hiding (hiding)." That's getting close to the level of abstractness in Neutral Milk Hotel lyrics. As old Call and Response fans can see, they've gone far beyond "before you learn how to walk, before you learn how to rock, you learn to rollerskate."

I'll just get to the point and say that I think this album is just a par above mediocre.

But before ending this review, I have to answer those who may attack me for refusing to let this band evolve. Why can't I just grow and mature along with this band. Isn't change good? Well, no, I can't agree with this change because Call and Response had one of the most unique sounds in all of music. Now, they've thrown it away for a mellower sound that, while good, is found in abundance in other places. In time, I might be able to gain an appreciation of the new Call and Response, but for now, I hope you understand why I'm stricken with overwhelming grief for the passing of the old.

--Eric Wolf

Artist Website: http://www.callandresponsemusic.com/
Label Website: http://www.badmanrecordingco.com

No comments: