The Calling - II
There are few things more disappointing in pop music than the feeling that a band has been set up for success and, similarly, few things more enjoyable when they fail. Regardless of what happened inside the studio or whether Pete Waterman was more interested in his steam trains than he was in the recording of their single, the failure of One True Voice gave such a sweet feeling that it was almost palpable. Similarly, few things give such good copy as when a much-hyped boyband struggles to even get a play outside of Atlantic 252.
Say what you like about 2 Unlimited but there was a feeling of them coming together naturally, as though fate had a hand in their formation as opposed to a Dutch light-entertainment show. Similarly, Ray Slijngaard and Anita Dels had an almost equal lack of talent - he couldn't rap, she couldn't sing and neither could write a tune even if they were only transcribing the ABBA songbook - so it looked as though their bewildering success was due more to a happy accident than there being anything of purpose behind it.
A brief description of The Calling's formation lingers on the accidental meeting of Alex Band and Aaron Kamine - one was dating the sister of the other at the time - but there's a lingering feeling whilst listening to II that hints at The Calling being as processed as sliced cheese. Part of this is due to the band having as much a radio-ready sound as Train, Matchbox Twenty and Staind but, equally, it's the fault of Alex Band's vocals, which sound almost identical to Eddie Vedder's awfully impassioned singing on the most dreary of Pearl Jam's well-meaning hard rock. After all, how easy is it to take an album produced by a duo when one member of the band is listed as providing vocals whilst the other, who doesn't sing, is listed instead as being on 'spoken word'. It's like pop never happened...
It wouldn't be so bad if the music wasn't quite as, well, straight as it is, as though Band and Kamine have been sheltered by their parents in safe houses in the midwest of the US, where they were exposed only to white-bread rock and the kind of surging pop from gay nightclubs and melodramatic girl bands was strictly abstained from. Only once did the album sound as though something startling was happening, whereupon one thought quickly passed through my mind - "eh? I've not heard that before...odd but not bad" - before I realised that it was my mobile ringing. But for a second, it was as though The Aphex Twin had remixed Somebody Out There and II briefly came to life.
The lyrics help little, being some guff about feelings that would be both insulting to teenagers to describe them as being sixth-form and liable to make you feel that emotions are to be avoided, leading to a life spent wearing rags, underpants made of nettles and in splendid isolation.
But it will make you feel...nothing. Nothing at all. Whether it exists or not will become irrelevant as it will have such little effect that Band and Kamine's time would have been better spent doing nothing more arduous than breathing instead of writing II, although it does sound as though a similar amount of effort was put into it.
Were they in possession of at least one between them, I'd say that, at heart, The Calling simply want to be loved but the awful rock they're offering here just isn't enough. No doubt they're intent on hold back the waves of manufactured pop bands that lurk within the charts but really, they needn't have bothered for I'd take a car boot full of Liberty X, Sugababes, Spice Girls and even 2 Unlimited before I'd bother with this. What The Calling fail to realise is that rock that's as safe as this is even more carefully considered than is sparkling pop, which is often a flurry of noise, music that's as instant as sugar and a high chart placing. Instead, this is as dishonest and grimly serious as blokes can get about rock and as exciting as that description implies.