Call The Doctor – Hands Will Shake album review

Call the Doctor are one of those bands that I probably should like less than I do. They’re not particularly original but they are very good at what they do, which is writing catchy, tight, immaculately-produced pop songs. Don’t let their name fool you: listening to their debut LP, I’m reminded more of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs than I am Sleater-Kinney, fans of whom are likely to find this project too polished for their tastes. Somebody once wrote that they thought Coldplay sounded like Radiohead with all the prickly, spiky interesting parts removed, and one could write something similar (o look, I’m doing it) about a band like Call the Doctor compared to, say, Helium. This band plays their instruments masterfully and they’re excellent songwriters  but there aren’t a lot of risks taken here and sometimes the whole project feels a little antiseptic. There are no notes here that don’t belong, and those are always the most important ones! For instance, though the tone of some of the lead guitar lines echo Carrie Brownstein’s SK work (q.v. “Seventeen”), the notes here are always the ones you might expect, rather than being of the angular and surprising nature in which Brownstein excels.

The best songs on the album are the ones that sound more hesitant – “Follow the Ribbons” and “Stood Beside Her”  being good examples of these – as opposed to the rockers, which are a little too radio-friendly, or would be if indie bands were actually played on the radio instead of streamed on the Internut; however, there’s no denying the appeal of songs like “Closer to Home” and “Take It Out,” which are Big Riff songs that work very well – the latter’s verses remind me of Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield,” of all things, and that’s fine with me. The singer’s voice is very emotive and fluid – it’s beautiful – and the band, again, plays and sounds fantastic: the guitars sound like they’re exploding out of the amplifiers and I can hear every drum fill perfectly, but do I want to? As in romance, I prefer a bit of mystery! I return to my first sentence if it sounds like I’m being too critical of this band: I did enjoy this very much. I would like to hear a little more experimentation and taking of chances on the band’s next album, but as far as rock albums go these days, it’s tough to find much to complain about here. Is excessive safety a vice? More importantly, how do they get the guitars to sound so perfect? Call the Doctor: pretty predictable, maybe, but not merely pretty. There is something worthwhile here, if familiar.

By Roberta Kellogg

Ms. Kellogg believes that music is far too important to be taken seriously. She spends her time in Portland, Oregon listening to records by the Bulletboys and dreaming of the day when she can be an old woman sitting quietly on the porch with skirt and shotgun. She does not suffer fools gladly and her aesthetic standards are impeccable. If you disagree with her venomous reviews you are simply incorrect. Excelsior!

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