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Review: Strength In Numbers – Calla

Aurelio Valle must lead a very, very depressing life. How else can one explain Calla’s terrific fixation with everything melancholy? On their latest record, Calla make more of an a

19 Apr, 2008

Arjun S Ravi

Editor

Strength In Numbers - CallaAurelio Valle must lead a very, very depressing life. How else can one explain Calla’s terrific fixation with everything melancholy? On their latest record, Calla make more of an advertisement for depression induced suicide than any Sean Penn movie could ever.

For years now, the New York trio have dished out album after album of melodies that could only be the result of too much television and too less socialising. Humor aside, it’s no laughing matter that their relevance and stature as a band has grown faster than the band’s natural evolution. Valle and co. have proved that their existence as seminal indie mournful darlings is not merely a function of one word song titles like ‘Sanctify’.
But on Numbers we find the New York trio tiring. Where Collisions was more atmospheric, Numbers tends heavily towards detail. It’s efforted to say the least, and the band has tried hard to build on what they achieved with Collisions. The rhythms and arrangements are, though not extraordinary, but well thought out, and almost cleverly executed. I say almost, because there are times when you wonder whether there is a reason for the riff to go on as long as it does or the vocal to be as distorted as it is. It’s a dilemma Calla faces and one that doesn’t seem to go away – how much is too little?

What Calla have introduced to their sound is this whole new-noir sound that very effectively complements their already perfected deep bass and rhythm. The album opener ‘Sanctify’ could well have been the soundtrack of some James Bond meets Sin City flick, with Clive Owen in the lead role. It’s a formula well executed on tracks like ‘Sylvia’s Song’ and the album closer ‘Dancers in the Dust’. It’s very bass and effects driven but steers clear of being cliche and well, mainstream – something they failed to do on Collisions.

The album does have its ‘up tempo’ moments as well. Tracks like ‘Bronson’ (with its Toto-ish melody in the background) and ‘Malicious Manner’ take the beat up a notch and add a little variety to the experience. But it’s the infinite sadness of the band’s moody nature that really is the clincher. And this is best brought out in ‘Stand Paralysed’; a song that takes a while to start and finishes just when you expect another chorus. It’s not really the sign of a band at its best, but more the reflection of a band doing what it does best, better.

Numbers does tend to be less ‘accessible’, and that’s going to please old fans, but on some songs they’ve really extended that definition. The two minute instrumental ‘Malo’ is an absolutely nothing song and serves as nothing more than an interlude to the second half of the album, and a poor one at that. ‘Simone’ is another filler that spoils what would otherwise have been a very solid album.

“Only time will tell” repeats Valle at the end of the album. For Calla, who’ve been around for nearly a decade now, time does seem to be a good crystal ball. Eventually, as a listener, you’re going to have to decide whether you’re one for the distance, or just the single. I for one have found that with this record, the distance is far more worthwhile.

Indiecision: B+

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