With Wherever You Will Go from The Calling’s debut album Camino Palmero having approached sonic perfection, I turned to their second album, Two (or II), with more than the usual thrill of getting a new CD.
Alex Band’s voice resonates throughout the album as a challenge to fellow US rock star frontmen Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and Scott Stapp (Creed), with a depth of emotion, maturity and raw talent seldom found on such young vocal chords.
The music is radio-friendly “rock” in the US style – guitars and drums sweeping through verses to anthemic choruses, somehow keeping the right side of that hoary catchy/formulaic divide.
And although Alex and guitarist/fellow songwriter Aaron Kamin are adamant that The Calling is just the two of them (hence “Two”, as well as it being the second album) plus session musicians, the boys cannot dispute that they have assembled a collection of great drummers, a good bassist and other instrumentalists to help them bring their musical vision into being.
There is a thread of seeking faith or destiny looping through the lyrics. “We’ve got to believe there’s a reason we’re here” in Our Lives, “Just looking for the truth” in Things Will Go My Way, and “Well she’s on her knees and begging please / She wonders if there’s somebody out there” on Somebody Out There are just a few examples. Despite this recurring theme, the lyrics are not one-dimensional, varing from relationships through self-analysis to story-telling.
Chasing The Sun is a stand out track, and deserves to get airplay on this side of The Pond too, while Our Lives and One By One have choruses that you’ll be singing hours later. The ballad Believing changes the pace but is carried along by Band’s vocal talents, a trick he doesn’t quite manage to repeat on If Only, which sounds a bit stodgy. Also misguided are Aaron’s “spoken words” on Your Hope – “I think we all know what it’s like to feel alone” in a deep and meaningful voice may have sounded profound in the studio but sounds more like Stilton in the outside world.
Acoustic bonus track For You signals a return to form, however, with Band’s voice and Kamin’s guitar being counterbalanced by some truly beautiful cello. The second bonus track is one to miss, though – a live version of London Calling – where Band’s voice is too pure and Kamin’s guitar too “plink plink” to be a good cover of this punk classic.
Fundamentally, this is an enjoyable album from two very talented guys, with the first half being particularly good, even if none of the tracks quite hit the sweet spot of Wherever You Will Go.