Call and Response

Call and Response
Call and Response
(Kindercore KCO59)

I have this theory that great music can not go undiscovered, that the cream really does rise to the top. I wonder, though, if "the top" is necessarily, as in Eric Clapton-level fame and fortune. Doesn't it ruin an artist to get that big, almost by default? Has anyone been able to sustain real greatness once at the superstar level? Perhaps my theory only means to say that ultimately, great music always finds an audience, to some extent at least. My own "great music" seems to be the exception to this rule, as my musical career thus far has resulted mainly in boxes of unsold CDs stacked in the basement holding up shelving, along with calls from credit card companies who want their money, and hundreds of drunken record reviews posted aimlessly on this site.

And when I put on Call and Response, from virtually the first moment, I figured I should just give it up entirely. These guys have it all down, and they do it with incredible savoir faire. At last, a great pop band has come along that knows how to use touchstones of the past without suffocating in their own cleverness or obscurity, and furthermore, they know how to shake it, honeychile. Simply put, this album fucking rules.

Imagine a Traveling Wilburys-style supergroup with members of the Cardigans, Matthew Sweet, Tony Romeo, and maybe a few Breeders and you start approaching the supreme, bouncy pop heaven that these guys put across. Slow loping basslines, tastefully executed three-part harmonies (2 female, 1 male), electric piano, tight groove drums unheard since the days of the Banana Splits, and songs communicated directly from planet "California Floating in Space."

There's some Partridge Family, a bit of Jackson 5, a scad of Staple Singers, a whiff of Abba, overall spiritual approval from the Beach Boys, a shimmer of Blondie, perhaps a skein of Tom Tom Club, and through it all, the band really sounds like none of these groups. Their sound is fresh and contemporary, leagues beyond any of the other so-called pop heroes of our day. Their songs are the kind you swear you've heard before, and they grab you in the same way your first 45s did back in the day, packing about the same instant nostalgia. It's happy summer music, and yet deeply felt, relishing its bliss rather than trying to make you smirk along with it like some of them Elephant 6ers. I very nearly wept when I heard this album. It was like the first time I went to Amoeba Records in Haight-Ashbury: it was like, whoa, I have finally been called home.

Get it. Get it. Get it. Get it. Once you've got it, make everyone else get it. The world begins to dance and sing, and share tofu dogs with mustard. Everyone's hugging and smiling and swapping sunglasses. We're all playing beach volleyball and haven't noticed the six inches of snow on the ground. People are calling each other "friend" and "buddy."

This is as cool as white music will ever get. A legendary Side A, a respectful little brother of a Side B, an ideal10-song length to avoid diabetic shock, and along the way, some of the prettiest, most fragrant flowers you will ever discover: "Nightflight" is my current crush, and no one can resist "Rollerskate": "Before you learn how to walk/Before you learn how to rock/You learn to rollerskate." Well, that's what I've been telling you all along! "California Floating in Space" is evocative and delicious. "Colors" teasingly approaches the line past which a song might be cheesy or annoying, but like Monkees on the beach, it quickly retreats just as the tide is about to swirl around its feet. It rewrites "Mr. Tambourine Man," but actually better. Gorgeous gorgeous. "The Fool" sounds like it's about to throw the whole album into the garbage with a deceptive guitar riff, but just as instantly rights itself and rides its surfboard up and down the coast.

Oooooooh. It hurts so good. The kind of album you want everyone to get immediately, but you secretly want no one to get it so you can have it all to yourself. The music is so great that if it does rise to Eric Clapton levels of popularity through some kind of improbable abuse in soundtracks, radio, and TV commercials, I think it could possibly resist the necessary onset of lameness.

I'm in love with Call and Response. Do you think they will marry me?

Review by Marjoram Tarragon