s a stand-alone album that would mark the beginning of a career in the New York rock scene, Calla’s Televise is a strong statement of purpose. Unfortunately the group has a back catalogue. And, unfortunately, that back catalog is a strong one that weighs heavily upon the reception of this album. Through the course of their career Calla has made their way from the country to an urban setting- and the changes have been more than geographical, as their music retains many of the same changes accompany a move from roots and a naïve purity.
On their first album, Calla, the group mined a post-rock landscape, using silence and aching twang to accomplish their purpose. Obviously the group was playing for the first time as a full unit, but they used this to their advantage, allowing the vocals to languish in the background, the guitars to timidly play only when necessary.
Moving forward to their second effort, Scavengers, the group had been part of New York for a few years- and the effect was a mixed one. Moderately less successful in its creation of mood than the self-titled debut, Scavengers was the sound of the band at a crossroads. The singing is more self-assured and the guitar playing is more prominent, but the doubts and the smoky ambience remained. It seemed that with this, their third album, that the group would make some sort of choice towards one path or another.
And Televise has chosen the path of comfort. The path that is easy. The path of a few good singles and a bloated second half. The path that means their big city kids now and have only remnants of their roots left.
The album starts out with a beautiful pop song, “Strangler.” It is a song with distorted guitar and highly mixed vocals replete with backing “aaahhhs” during the chorus. It’s alternately tied to their past and a complete break. It’s, incidentally, one of the finest songs on the record. The group takes an even further left turn with the brooding elegy of “Astral”, that bubbles over with a oozing eroticism rarely found in other bands- the type of sexiness that isn’t found in any of the other New York bands currently receiving far greater press.
But for all of the good things that can be said about the first half of the record, the second half misses the very things that made both of the previous two records such conflicted masterpieces. “As Quick As It Comes/Carrera” makes it far too easy, lending itself to an lazy climax that reveals little of the struggle that lies beneath, while the title song “Televised” doesn’t know when to quit gradually swelling back to prominence over a two minute coda.
While there are strong flaws with this album, it can’t be denied that there are also a lot of things that are done well. Going in a the direction of a more pop-friendly sound could never be termed a crime, certainly, but it also seems like Calla has given up so much more in favor of a stab at gaining the prominence it sorely deserves. Here’s hoping that on the next album the group can regain the atmosphere that colored the first albums and the pop sensibility that made a large portion of Televise so promising.