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The La's Callin’ All Review

Compilation. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Shows how a lasting reputation can be founded upon one lucky strike.

Andrew Mueller 2010

The shamelessness is very nearly admirable. Indeed, it’s difficult not to perceive Callin’ All as a bleak joke at the expense of the music industry, satirising the accelerating panic and chronic lack of imagination that besets the business: a four-CD retrospective surveying the career, such as it was, of a band who only ever got around to making one album – and one which the group themselves affected to detest.

The audaciously titled The La’s, released 20 years ago, was a competent, mildly diverting collection of tuneful skiffle redeemed by, and remembered for, one truly transcendent twinkle of pop perfection: There She Goes, a delirious and beautiful synthesis of the heartfelt exuberance of The Temptations’ My Girl with the exquisite melancholy of Big Star’s September Gurls.

While La’s songwriter Lee Mavers surely deserves whatever he’s earned from that song, his case for staking a claim on four discs’ worth – one collection of A sides and B sides, one bunch of out-takes, two late-80s/early-90s concert recordings augmented by radio sessions – of anyone’s attention is rather weaker. It is, sadly, fairly easy to see through something when the material of which it is constructed is stretched so hilariously thin.

The mathematics of the enterprise tell the story. There are 92 tracks on Callin’ All. And there are 27 songs. The record-holder is Timeless Melody, which appears eight times, in assorted combinations of demo, rehearsal, recording, live, radio session, absent-mindedly hummed in the bath by the drummer one morning, etc.

If Callin’ All was intended to be a monument to the majesty of The La’s, it fails utterly. It works rather well, however, as an illustration of how a lasting reputation can be founded upon one lucky strike. Were it not for There She Goes – which appears but a surprisingly demure six times here – they wouldn’t have been remembered 20 minutes later, never mind 20 years.

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