Here’s the neat thing about local act Callooh! Callay!’s new album “TALK:” it’s equally compelling at a speaker-rattling blast as it is in low-volume ambience. If that strikes you as dubious, think about it for a second – chances are, you haven’t relegated Deep Purple to a whisper or cranked America up around 11 anytime lately. “TALK” is of “Dark Side of the Moon”-caliber volume versatility.
Really, versatility sums up the nature of the entire album. These songs almost beg to be listened to over and over again – not only at different volumes, but also through different modes of conveyance, in different frames of mind, with different areas of focus through each listen. There’s too much going on not to. The record is dense with layers of inescapable sound.
Here’s what Adam Morrow, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, has to say about the new music: “I think we just lucked out with bits in the music that, to me, really create a space, somewhere I feel I could stay for a while. But that’s just me.”
Get ready to scooch on over, Mr. Morrow, and make some room for more. “TALK” presents listeners with so much to explore that they’re going to want to stay awhile – and then come back to discover even more.
David Burkhalter’s alien calibration of oscillating synth that introduces “Talker,” the album’s first track, fades away as the song steadily builds into a “Joshua Tree”-era-U2 crescendo of Morrow’s pointed guitar and Bowen Robertson’s powerful drums.
Perhaps the most instantly likeable song on the record is the up-tempo “Ladyfingers.” This tune rides along on its fuzzed-out riff, “occasionally kind of lifted out of the muck,” as Morrow puts it, by his My Morning Jacket’s Jim James-does-Radiohead’s Thom Yorke falsetto howl in the chorus.
It’s a fitting song title, seeing as a lady’s fingers contribute so thoroughly to the record’s sea of straticulated sound. Natalie Jensen’s bass lines can’t be placated. See “Stereoface,” where Jensen’s bass jumps and moves, spiriting song and listener along an Underground Groove-road, while organ floats overhead, and drums crash alongside.
At select points, Jensen’s looping bass line and Robertson’s concise drumming team with spooky, ethereal echoes to make “Throwing Stones” read like the younger, rowdier Tuscaloosan cousin of some stuff on Radiohead’s “King of Limbs.” Until the last minute of the song, that is, when the band launches into full-throttle – we’re talkin’ Neil Young & Crazy Horse full-throttle – pedal- and effect-based sonic savagery. Callooh! Callay! sure knows how to keep a body guessing.
But one thing’s for sure: “TALK”’s 10 tracks, with all their diverse layers, sound like they belong together somehow, if only loosely.
“I think the only unified theme is the space between things that we think, how we portray them and how they are received,” Morrow said. “There’s at least a little of that in every song. There’s wishing for communication. There’s being daunted by it.”
The band is not afraid to find a direction and explore it. “TALK” sounds darker and heavier than 2010 debut “Sasprilluh Champagne.” One gets the impression, listening to the new record, that these guys aren’t experimenting just for the heck of it. They’re moving; they’re searching. “Take it back/if I could,” Morrow laments on “Stereoface.” Don’t stop now, man. It sounds like you’re on the right track.