The Calling - Our Lives
You can tell a lot about a band by the kind of guitars they play. So long as Eric Clapton kept a Les Paul or a 335 about him, he kept some notion of cool about him. As soon as he swapped the Gibsons for a Fender Strat, he headed down a road that would eventually take him to Tears In Heaven, weak covers of Bob Marley songs and support for Enoch Powell's infamous Rivers Of Blood speech. Put all of that down to his use of a Fender Strat. Led Zeppelin? All went wrong when Page put away the Les Paul. The Who? Weren't quite the same after Townshend gave up on his once-favoured SG. And just in case you're thinking there's a Gibson bias here, the Stones don't have quite the same groove when Keef forgets his Telecaster.
With The Calling, you suspect they've nothing but awful guitars. Take the B-side to this single - an acoustic version of The Clash's London's Calling - it would be possible to get a better sound out of a Clarks' shoebox with some wool tied tight around it. Unlike the version of the song that opened London Calling, which was bleak with the sound of an impending disaster, The Calling's take on the song is as weak as a urine sample offered by a teetotaller.
Our Lives is little better, being a poor child of 'the big music', once offered by the likes of Simple Minds, The Waterboys and U2 before the latter two undertook massive rethinks of their sound. Our Lives even offers lyrics that could have slipped onto The Joshua Tree during the change in shift between Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. Clearly Aaron Kamin and Alex Band believe there is depth in, "In this world divided by fear / We've gotta believe that there's a reason we're here" but Our Lives is more The Scorpions' Wind Of Change than Dylan's A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall.
That Alex Band found time between the release of The Calling's first album and their forthcoming second album to become the face of The Gap in a recent series of adverts almost says it all - this being rock music for people who care about such things.