Calla: This Better Go As Planned

Lose your shitCalla at the Empty Bottle

Chicago, October 30, 2005

I’m offering this simple question to indie kids from ages one to twenty-two: How are you not losing your collective shit over the new Calla album, Collisions? I mean, sure, Calla isn’t hewing to current trends like “freak-folk” or “being Canadian,” instead throwing in their lot with musical trends already being eulogized on VH-1. But you guys love anti-heroes! Sure, there’s a couple tracks that scream to the heavens, “Track Forward! Track Forward!” But when did that stop you from anointing a new darling?

The answers have less to do with the music Calla makes and more to do with the path they’ve taken to get there. Calla likes to do things backwards. They messed around in the studio, then became a live band; they started out with experimental leanings, then went rock. And they’ve been around since at least ’97, somehow making sad, dense music before Livejournal even existed. And here they were, playing a bar show on the Sunday night before Halloween.


Calla brought their own lights, three dim ones pointing straight up, and wore all black. Frontman Aurelio Valle’s guitar has always sounded like it’s echoing across some desolate patch of the American Southwest on the blackest night of the year, and the darkened stage only added to this effect. If Collisions has an Achilles’ heel, it’s the way Valle’s too-easy whispergrowl sometimes takes center stage over those badass guitar melodies. Live, you can’t tell if it’s Valle’s voice or a trick of the wind, which is helpful on several levels, since lyrics like “That’s not how it’s s’posed to be / It’s the last time I’ll be on my knees” can be a touch melodramatic if belted-out with full fury. But since rock and roll is inherently an exercise in melodrama to begin with, and because I happily see as much Corgan-flavored, ’90s radio alt-rock in Calla’s music as other reviewers see Slint-flavored post-rock, Calla should get a pass lyrically.

It only helps Calla’s cause that Valle holds his guitar over his hip, playing it like he’s a gunslinger or something. He doesn’t yelp or jump, but he looks cooler just strumming his guitar than any frontman I’ve seen in a while. The blackened stage, the minimalist rock-star moves, the Sunday-vibe, the uncomfortable lack of stage banter. For a band with music as heart-on-sleeve as Calla, it was all decidedly low-key. I can’t decide if the intended effect of stripping away rock-show trappings is to overemphasize the music itself, or to just make the music seem that more unearthly and desolate. Or maybe the two are the same thing. The only thing I was sure of by the end of the show is that, somehow, Calla manages to be genuinely creepy, surprisingly rousing, jarringly out-of-place, strangely familiar, and even laughably melodramatic all in the same hour-long set. Post-rock, post-grunge, and post-sad-bastard might not be the most fashionable palettes for a band to work with right now, but Calla accomplishes the important task of combining them in a way that’s unexpected, that’s finally post-rock-crit-platitudes.

Download “It Dawned on Me” off Collisions via Insound.

14 thoughts on “Calla: This Better Go As Planned”

  1. Well, at the risk of sounding like the worlds ass-hat ichi-ban, could it be that Call just isn’t really all that great?

    I’m not trying to be nasty or anything cause god knows my bands not out setting the world on fire, but there isn’t really a lot about Calla that doesnt have a “heard it all before” vibe to it. I saw them open up for Interpol a couple of years back and I remember only being marginally impressed with them. From what I’ve heard off this new record, they havent done much to change that first impression.

    Calla isn’t an aweful band, but there just isn’t anything in the music that really grabs people.

  2. i gotta agree w/ Michael on this one.

    saw them w/ Interpol in ’03, thought they were decent (if not a bit snoozy live), checked out their studio stuff, didn’t think too much of it either. the newest record is better, but they still are not a GREAT band by any means imo.

  3. I have a message for Chris Bailey, and any other contributors of Glorious Noise.

    Let me preface this with “by no means am i a prude”…and also “by no means am i upper crust or snobby”, but when writing anything moderately journalistic, if you want to be taken seriously, you shouldn’t use nouns such as “shit” or adjectives such as “fuckin'”.

    Its unfortunate that we can’t describe things now-a-days without resorting to crudity in our speaking language – it sometimes slips out…but really, when talking about the written word, using “writing enhancers” can be controlled.

    I’ve even seen CDs reviewed by Fanatic that was written by sailors. How does that happen?

    So a helpful hint to all would-be journalists – use those words when talking to your crew, not when writing reviews of a “kick-ass band”…and most importantly, don’t kiss your mother with that vocabulary.

    p.s. Chris, i didn’t mean to target you. i think you only used one naughty word. It just made me think about it so i thought i would chime in. Its my new goal in life to take this crusade…

    -Ryan

  4. Are you fucking serious, Ryan?

    If you haven’t noticed, this is not the stodgy old New York Times. Profanity is encouraged here as it contributes to the conversational tone that we strive for. We do not conform to the APA Style Guide by choice, not because we’re unaware of the rules.

    I cannot speak for all of the contributors to GLONO, but personally, I have no journalistic aspirations. However, over the years, several of the founders of this site and its contributors have worked (or are currently working) as real-world journalists and editors for “real,” non-internet brick-and-mortar publications (including the aforementioned stodgy old New York Times!).

    So a helpful hint to all would-be editors – fuck off, and start your own fucking website.

    Love,

  5. You’re mad that I said “shit?” Wow, that’s nothing. I mean, this was just a review of a ROCK show at a BAR.

    You should see the minutes I took of the last Chicago Chapter DAR meeting. Those ladies get a few glasses of wine in them, and all of the sudden it’s “Cunt” this and “Cocksucker” that.

  6. Chris, you’re not going to win any points for your side by referencing The Gilmore Girls. BUSTED!

    And I can freely taunt you cause according to your demographic I am too old to listen to this Calla anyway. Neener neener.

    ps: …I mean, sure, Calla isn’t hewing to current trends like “freak-folk” or “being Canadian,”: Hee.

  7. I have a message for Chris Bailey, and any other contributors of Glorious Noise.

    Let me preface this with “by no means am i a music lover”…and also “by no means am i interested in your site”, but when writing anything moderately journalistic, if you want to be taken seriously, you shouldn’t use sentences and/or words describing “rock”, “roll”, or “rock and roll”.

    Its unfortunate that we can’t describe real topics now-a-days without resorting to “music” in our speaking language – it sometimes slips out…but really, when talking about the written word, plebian topics such as contemporary sounds should be avoided.

    I’ve even seen full articles that were written on groups of young men called “bands”. How does that happen?

    So a helpful hint to all would-be journalists – use those topics when studying drug users and youth, not when writing articles on a literary web page…and most importantly, don’t ask my mother on a date, she is spoken for.

    p.s. Chris, i didn’t mean to target you. Though you are a cretin, i think you only digressed towards “music” a limited number of times. It just made me think about it so i thought i would chime in. Its my new goal in life to take this crusade… and to “examine” child pornography very, very, Very closely.

    -Reanne

  8. umh… back to the subject… Calla are a good and a lot of the shit you all are saying can be said about any band.. sonic youth .. anyone.. but hey who cares anyway… rock on and die!

  9. calla are so good it makes me sick. to actually get hold of all their albums required a trip into london as most large music stores just dont stock the band… infact my local shop which generally buys things i want in hadnt even got the band on their system to allow them to do it. this might be the issue.

    they have had some radio 6 play but it’ll take people forcing their music on their mates to get these well known despite them genuinely bein better than a majority of similarly veined bands.

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