It sounds as though Call And Response took the constructive criticism of their self-titled debut to heart. That album, which for all its upbeat instrumentation was sweet enough to make you sick, relayed the San Franciscan five-piece's fascination with the gentle vocal harmonies of cult '60s bands such as The Free Design, The Mamas & The Papas and The Association. Winds Take No Shape
, in contrast, swamps these '60s summer-pop inspirations with grey clouds. Gone are the gleefully twee lyrics, gone are the white-boy funk excursions -- this is what it sounds like to be all grown up.
Right from the get-go, the album's somber instrumentation is affecting. Simone Rubi and Carrie Clough's lead vocals are as impressive as ever, recalling the dulcet sophistication of Laetitia Sadier, yet they're now underscored by downbeat drumming, subdued bass progressions and sighing harmonies from the rest of the band. Minor chords ever-present, while Farfisas and Moogs linger in the background; "Eclipse" even quivers along on jangly guitar dynamics reminiscent of the mid-'80s Flying Nun scene. It adds up to an unmatched aural serenity, but there's a frightening urgency in the lyrics that lends a disquieting sense to the proceedings.
That's where Call And Response's maturity is most apparent. Although packed with natural metaphors to the point of indulgence, the band's lyrics hint at a strange regret, fondly recalling the past but also hating it. Consider a few of these moody lyric-snippets: "Only in the shadow of a mirror is the last image saved" ("Colors Bleed"); "I'll take my coins / throw them in this canal / while smoke billows" ("Misty Moon"); "Frame the pieces of my body in a fading silhouette / picture taken from behind" ("Silhouette"). It's a dramatic change for a band once prone to such lyrical inanities as "Before you learn how to walk / before you learn how to rock / you learn to rollerskate".
The band have definitely taken a major chance by ditching their innocent and fun approach, which has garnered them a stable fan base and much critical praise. However, their bi-polar tendencies are definitely moving them in the right direction. Winds Take No Shape's compositions are not as varied as their debut, but it's a more atmospheric, cohesive and significant work because of it.