It should come as no surprise that I would love The Call. I love The Band, Joy Division, The Clash and New Order, and The Call seemed to be an amalgam of them all. Ironically, this was probably the same reason so many of my friends didn’t get hip to the band. It was simply difficult to reconcile the digital synthesizers of the 1980s, punk/post-punk aesthetics and American grit.
Although The Call was officially a band through the 1990s, it only released one record in its last decade. That album, To Heaven and Back, seemed to be an attempt to revive a career. (In actuality, it was probably more of a gift than anything from Dan Russell and his small label, Fingerprint.) The songs were raw and much more palatable for the post-grunge 90s listener, but a comeback never really materialized.
Last week, Michael Been, the bassist, singer and primary songwriter for The Call died. He suffered a heart attack while backstage at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (his son’s band) show in Belgium. I was always in awe at how well he could play bass and sing. I was taken even more by his typically sober lyrics.
Been’s thoughts concerning his own favorite bands mirror my affection for his band. In an interview to promote To Heaven and Back, he said, “”I personally like music that speaks to me about my life, not my fantasies, not my ego. When a band writes a song and I can say ‘that’s how I feel, that’s what I think, that’s my experience,’ it creates a kind of community. Loneliness, or better still, aloneness, is a basic emotion we all share to varying degrees, and the music that appeals to me is the type that eases that aloneness.”
- “The Itchy Glowbo Blow” – Cocteau Twins (Blue Bell Knoll/4AD/1988)
- “Scarlet” – Lush* (Gala/4AD/1990)
- “Transit” – The Lines (Memory Span/Acute Records/2008)
- “Ageless Beauty” – Stars (Set Yourself on Fire/Arts & Crafts/2005)
- “Expecting” – The Call (Out of the Woods/Elektra/1987)
*After listening through this show, I realized I incorrectly stated this song was by His Name is Alive, yet another 4AD band worth investigating. I’ve been listening to its first record quite a bit recently, too.