Call Me Lightning takes its name from an early Who song, but the Milwaukee post-punk power trio waited until its third album, When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free, to make a full-on Who tribute. Shane Hochstetler attacks the drums with the fill-happy, thunderous power of Keith Moon, Kris Maedke-Russell stands in the stoic John Entwistle role with basslines that slither amid the sonic wreckage like metallic snakes, and Nathan Lilley pounds out bloody-palmed Pete Townshend power chords while affecting a Roger Daltrey-esque scream echoing across the teenage wasteland.
It might come off like bald imitation if CML didn’t infuse all the Live At Leeds chest-thumping with as much bug-eyed intensity and genuinely breathtaking majesty as it does on When I Am Gone. Call Me Lightning doesn’t scale down stadium-rock; it squeezes all that bigness and velocity into tiny basements until the roof disappears in a swirling mushroom cloud. It’s incredible that anything—much less the record-label problems that delayed the album’s release for nearly a year—could keep When I Am Gone from running into the streets and murdering innocents with its bare hands before now.
As with 2007’s great Soft Skeletons, When I Am Gone storms out of the gate with a trio of overwhelming ass-kickers, setting the tone for the pulse-pounding proceedings ahead with the galloping shredder “Called To The Throne” before settling into the brontosaurus stomp of “Beyond The Beasts” and the shout-along anthem “Bronze Hell.” CML is only slightly more subdued on the stirring title track and the epic, proggy “The Fog,” which features one of the few guitar solos in the band’s history. And then it’s back to killing and pillaging on the aging-scenester ode “Old Cactus” and the record’s dramatic culmination, “We Never Left,” in which Lilley sings, “I don’t care how this ends” like he’s about to drive over a cliff. It’s a fittingly exhilarating, go-for-broke conclusion to a thoroughly reckless ride.