“If I could turn back time…” Oops, sorry, just remembering it was 4,213 times that I heard the Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go.” Yep, give or take 11 times! The band with the hook, chorus, and melody of the summer of 2002 is back with a new album. And like every other band that hits gold on its first go-around, II is more than likely bound to disappoint some people. But they would be in the vast minority here! That is for the first half offerings…
Singer Alex Band and guitarist Aaron Kamin spent a lot of time and effort ono making the dreaded sophomore album. From the opening notes of “One By One,” they probably could’ve tossed this one aside for good. Kamin’s guitar riff and the light, melodic yet melancholic sound is just one step removed from what you might see from “country” bands like Emerson Drive—slick, polished arrangements that sound somewhat appealing but not that concrete and lacking some soul. It’s basically something you’ve heard from Matchbox Twenty.
“Our Lives” brings to mind their hit song with a slow-building style that Band takes control over after Kamin offers some decent riffs and another fine hook that is ideal for saying the hell with one’s hair and taking down the convertible roof. The brief moments before the chorus are a tad arduous but worth the brief wait! Another strong point is the bridge that the Calling doesn’t throw away like so many other new groups do. Band sounds quite strong here and they fully flesh out the conclusion, which never ever hurts. From there an anthem-like U2 opening starts “Things Will Go My Way”, which then veers into more of a power ballad à la Creed without that annoying pompous characteristic. The song comes apart at the seams though in the bridge as Band and company decide to raise the rock bar with less-than-impressive outcomes.
Perhaps the greatest trait to this record is that one gets the impression that last record wasn’t a one-shot wonder, as more meaty hooks are thrown out during the gorgeous and limb-moving, slow-galloping “Chasing The Sun”. “She’s like a sweet summer, a sweet summer day / And I can’t let her, I can’t let her go to waste,” Band sings as Josh Freese makes a guest appearance pounding the skins. The reflective “Believing” takes the album down too far, though, and is the polar opposite of the previous song, perfect adult contemporary pop, but at the same time relatively safe and edgeless. It’s the type of song that you might listen to toweling off in a shower but that you wouldn’t run out to the local record shop to seek out. Again the U2 overtones are discerned quite easily on the strong “Anything” that brings to mind “Beautiful Day” in some respects. “I will be there to catch you when you fall down,” Band sings as harmonies are layered on top.
All albums tend to have their complete, head-shaking clunkers, and II has its on the slower, quasi-soulful “If Only”. It’s a tune that’s best left to blues-based bands and not groups who opt for strings and a classical-tinted angle. Band tries his best to sell the song with decent vocals but it’s not nearly enough to make the grade. They don’t get out of this rut with the bland and uninspired “Somebody Out There”, which sounds like a replica of the previous horrid apathetic ditty. “Surrender” is a tad better and more patio pop or up-tempo oriented with its quirky, Dave Matthews-like backbeat. Ditto for “Dreaming In Red”! By this time it sounds as if the Calling were trying to do their best to distance themselves from the proverbial side one that had the hooks. Here the melody is the pseudo-king but not that often.
The Calling found their calling in making shiny, shimmering, and glistening pop rock radio nuggets. Don’t screw with the blueprint, guys…
// Notes from the Road
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