Thursday, June 20, 2013

Calling Zero (2002)

Calling Zero
(2002, Fading Captain Series)

What do you get when two '90s indie-rock superheroes team up and record a full length record together?  What do you get when fucking Mac McCaughan of Superchunk and Robert "Guided by Fucking Voices" Pollard put their heads together to shit out a surefire golden nugget?  Well, you get a messy pile of decent songs, with mediocre melodies and ridiculous lyrics.

Like most of Pollard's side projects, someone plays all the instruments, while Pollard writes melodies and records vocals over said instrumentation.  Songwriting credits are shared and the rest is discography history.  In this case, McCaughan brings some decent songs to the table, but for the most part, Pollard fails to hammer them home.  What should've been a pairing for the ages winds up a somewhat lackluster 12 tracks. Somethings looks better on paper.

Radical Girl Modish, organ and acoustic guitar track. Something Yo La Tengo might have recorded for one of their early '00s LPs. Pollard handles the average track fairly well, with simple vocal melody and shrug-worthy lyrics.

Calling Zero2 Mac writes a very hushed, Portastatic-esque track with easy listening guitar riff. Unfortunately, Pollard's melody and seeming lack of any interesting or clever lyric ruins this song. In fact, the lyrics are so terrible, the song is legitimately black-eyed.

Never Forget Where You Get Them  Excellent fuzzed-out trip down a nostalgic summer's lane on Mac’s part. Pollard’s melodies are soaring and complements the track well. The cylinders were properly firing on this one. 

Red Hot HalosMac’s song sounds a bit like fellow Merge artists, akin to a poppier Magnetic Fields track or a Ladybug Transistor song. Unfortunately, the music isn’t anything to write home about, and Pollard does little make it remotely noteworthy. The chorus is down right disappointing.

Again the Waterloo3 Completely out of left-field Mac composition. Lo-fi electronica? Yup.Backed with a guitar that sounds like it’s bleeding out from the last fragments of shattered amp cone. Pollard is deadpanned and melodic.  Somehow this all works, and is rather enjoyable, if not ridiculous.

Climb2  More electronic bleeps and bloops that are distracting and sound just plain stupid. It’s unfortunate, the fuzzed guitar lead is pretty classic Portastatic/slower Superchunk that gets lost. Pollard sounds weepy and half-assed throughout.

Go Gold-  Akin to something off the Portastatic Nature of Sap LP. Which means, it’s rather boring. Strummed major chords at a slow tempo. With Pollard’s natural gifts for melody, this has the potential to be crafted into a great ballad. Instead, we get extremely cheesy lyrics and an awkward upwardly inflected choral melody that’s more grating than anything else.

Lifetime for the MavericksBrittle, pop-punk riff with synth swells. Thankfully, Pollard does reach into the bag of tricks, and constructs an enjoyable melody over this simple, short song.

Throat of Throats2 A year after Calling Zero came out, The Postal Service would strike it big on Sub Pop with their LP Give Up. If one didn't know the years, I'd say, musically, this sounds like a poor imitation. A sub par, electronic pop song with lifeless, and occasional out-of-key Pollard vocals.  And what a terrible title.

Ironhorse Worm2 Rather low-key keyboard composition by Mac. Has all the fun of attending a church service.

It Is Divine -  4 Years later this would be released on the Delicious Pie and Thank You For Calling rarities disc as an old demo Pollard had lying around. Mac handles the music well. Delicately sprucing it up into a poppy Mac-tinged tune. Pollard handles the melodies well. Easy listening for sure, but one of the brighter spots on the LP.

Dumbluck Systems Stormfront-  1  Minor chord acoustic strums on Mac’s part that can put even the most restless insomniac to sleep with its mundane nature. Eventually, some trumpets come into the mix over said boring acoustic strums. So boring, this closer actually makes me mad. To top it off, Pollard sings a melody that’s nothing to write home about. hoooo-hmmmmm?


  1. I love this album. I agree, "It Is Divine" is definitely the stand-out track.

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  3. Yeah an overly disappointing release. Superchunk are pretty shitty by my estimation. I'm glad they covered the Verlaines 'All Laid Down' but it also displays how relatively shitty they are. And yet totally overrated by the US press while the Verlaines are vastly underrated.

    1. Oooops it was Lying In State. Sounding not so bad to my drunken ears now.