I had never heard of The Callas before a promo download of this record was sent to EvilSponge back in November. This is a damn shame, because this is a phenomenal record.
The Callas are a band from Greece, consisting of brothers named Lakis and Aris Ionas backed up by two females: Chrysanthi Tsoukala on guitar & vocals, and drummer Marilena Petridou. Pretty much a straight rock band lineup.
But they do so much with it! Petridou and bassist Lakis make a powerful rhythm section, really channeling that motorik sound that the early Krautrock bands did so well. The rhythm is clear and sparse, yet driving. There is not a lot of unnecessary drumming, just a few steady hits that drive the songs along.
Aris and Tsoukala play pretty sparse guitar, sometimes fast and distorted, sometimes barely there but still plinking out the melody.
One thing to note is the vocals. Lakis and Aris split the vocal duties, and Petridou adds backing vocals on most tracks. The male lead voices are, well, heavily accented. They sing in English, and the clipped, odd pronunciation adds to the Krautrock feel of the songs. They use their English pronunciation as another rhythm element, which is interesting, but takes a little getting used to.
Fortunately the songs are so powerful that you easily get used to the voices. Let's just get to the songs.
The record starts off with Lustlands, where Petridou beats a loud, deep drum as the Ionas brothers and Tsoukala "La-la-la" angrily. Who knew you could do that angrily? This song is loud and hard and distorted to hell and back, except on the choruses, where the voice sings lightly and the guitars chime.
As Lustlands fades out, a fuzzy guitar line warbles in, overdriven and loud. Petridou beats the hell out of her kit and Anger tears by like an old Fall song. Whichever Ionas brother sings here really channels Mark E. Smith.
The Callas are at their most motorik for East Beat, where the voices sing "Is East Beat" in a staccato manner, the whole song really just one insistent, driving beat. It reminds me of the darker moments of Lali Puna. Black Leather Books is a bass rumble, some squealing guitar, and the voices. It reminds me of early Pixies.
The fifth track is one of the best songs i have heard in a long time. "I hate your earthquake walk / And i hate your babytalk" an Ionas drawls disinterestedly as the guitars crunch and the drums thunder. I Hate You But I Like You is two minutes of the voice listing things he dislikes about someone, but notes on the roaring chorus, "I hate you / Cause I'm like you". This is like a mid-era Jesus and Mary Chain song, all vitriol, steady beats, and fast distorted guitar. Every time he sings, "I hate your FaceBook photos / and I hate your favorite band" i laugh, and nod knowingly. Sing it brother!
Disaster is another loud song, the guitar here channeling Gang of Four while the voice is clear like early Thurston Moore. That's You is another JAMC song, the guitars almost overpowering the voice.
I Wonder is another Pixies-like song, Lakis's rumbling bass driving it along. It's a really happy tune too, with a nice head-bopping beat. Things slow down on Octopus Love, where the rhythm is positively lethargic for them. The guitars are great, really chiming.
And finally things are wrapped up with Am I Vertical?. It starts with the guitars doing a fast, Western guitar strumming, until the drums come in, Petridou pounding the hell out of a drum for a steady loud beat. At the end, the whole band just tears into it, the guitars chugging as the voices tear around in different directions. It is a messy end to the record, but also, in a way, the perfect end to this.
Overall, this is good stuff. The Callas really know what they are doing, and i am impressed. And just remember, i do, in fact, hate your FaceBook photos...