Kristi Callan: Feed the Kitty

[13 July 2003]

By Jason MacNeil

Kristi Callan is making her solo debut with this EP release, but she’s not a musician one would consider new to the industry. Along with her sister Kelly, Kristi was part of the late eighties band Wednesday Week, a group which released two albums and numerous EPs. From there she moved on to other groups, including the country-tinged Dime Box, as well as Lucky. But perhaps her associations and performances with David Gray, the Ventures, Dave Davies of the Kinks, and the Wondermints give her the most respectability. A fixture on the Californian scene for some time, this five-song effort is interesting and of rather high quality.

From the opening track, “The Way He Was Today”, Callan has a definite passion in her voice that would draw instant comparisons to Pretenders lead singer, Chrissie Hynde, or, to a lesser extant, Olivia Newton-John. The pop arrangement is a mix of early ‘80s New Wave or the Bangles with a more contemporary format. The effects and ambiance to the song harkens back to a ‘60s psychedelic sound, or Elvis Costello and the Attractions, but unfortunately it seems to need an extra verse as it fades out rather quickly at three minutes.

“I Wish I” is a singer-songwriter type of tune that Callan doesn’t really find her footing on for some time. The opening verse should lead into something bigger or better but instead the guitar in the background gets lost far too deep in the mix. “I Wish I still had you to talk to”, Callan sings as a Middle Eastern or Indian influenced guitar riff is in the distance. The percussion kicks in during the midway point, but the mix is just awful. It seems like a good idea that was in the hands of too many people, veering off in different directions for no apparent reason.

Thankfully, “Bud” gets things going again with a simple strumming on acoustic guitar that feeds into a nice albeit soft orchestral feeling. The keyboards resemble Roy Bitten’s (of Springsteen’s E Street Band) with some Eno-esque touches. Callan has control of the song but really doesn’t shine as much as one might hope her to. There is a voice there but she rarely uses it to her advantage. The evolving structure to the tune is good but not great. Perhaps this would be better had she stuck to the original guitar strumming.

The centerpiece of this effort (although it is the fourth song of five, meaning the third is the . . . well, nevermind) is a cover of Arthur Lee’s “Andmoreagain”, a classic dream pop song from the late ‘60s. Callan gives it a very good performance along the lines of a well-developed Marianne Faithful in her infancy. The acoustic guitar and piano here are great and Callan only adds to its luster. “And if you see Andmoreagain / Then you might be Andmoreagain”, she sings with a lightness that is instantly attractive and alluring. A great track and a great performance!

The finale to this album is “Someday”, closing things with a funky aquatic sound. The keyboards and synths add a good amount of color and the overall quirky nature to the song works to Callan’s advantage. “That’s what I tell myself / It doesn’t really help / I’m just kidding myself cause someday never comes”, she sings behind what closely resembles a hockey arena or baseball stadium’s organ. On the whole the effort shows her various influences and where she could use each as a jumping off point. But a few of these songs could use a bit of refining.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/callankristi-feed/