By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Feb 12, 2007 at 5:29 AM

It probably happens to lots of bands. You're working on your new album, you're laboring intensely over the songs, you're almost ready to deem them flawless when it hits you: the guitar solo on your album closer sounds dangerously close to "Hotel California."

Happening upon such an unfortunate realization, Milwaukee's triad of rambunctious rock, Call Me Lightning, had to think fast.

"We had to change it," says Nathan Lilley, whose vocals lead the band down a path that's as dark as it wildly fun. "We got Tjay (Christenson) from Temper Temper to replace it with an organ part."

The result is decidedly cryptic -- a mood the band wears like a second skin -- and remains a markedly safe artistic distance from anything The Eagles ever recorded.

As a haunting interlude spliced into the middle of an otherwise powerhouse anthem, the choice is not altogether surprising, although it does mark one of the many ways Call Me Lightning -- also comprising Bill Kutsch (bass) and Shane Hochstetler (drums) -- has grown since '04's "The Trouble We're In."

"Soft Skeletons," unleashed to the public on Saturday, Feb. 17, is the band's second full-length, though its first on New York's Frenchkiss Records. Where "Trouble" spazzed out and thrashed itself from beginning to end, "Skeletons" easies up on the noise and loads up on melody and even -- Lilley's not afraid to say it -- a solid helping of pop. As a whole, the album sounds like 10 big steps in 10 right directions and it's obvious that the band has been busy perfecting new ideas -- the biggest of which fans will notice long before the "Return As A Child" organ solo: specifically, Lilley is actually singing.

"What you're hearing on 'Skeletons,' I couldn't sing like that until this album. It was like the next challenge to try to fit the vocals with all the music we were writing. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do."

Lilley claims his newfound singing voice was less of an artistic choice and more just an innate response to the music they'd written. Who would have guessed there was a distinguished singing voice somewhere under all that wailing? And who would have guessed that a series of misfortunes would have led to the discovery?

"The album was supposed to come out in June of '06, but the label had a bunch of scheduling conflicts had to push the release date back. Then I got sick and my voice wouldn't recover fast enough. We ended up having to delay recording, and in the meantime we ending up changing some of the vocals to what they are now."

The band recorded most "Soft Skeletons" at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago, but also employed Hochstetler's Waukesha studio, Headache House, for parts of it. Lilley says the Headache House will most likely be the future sight of much tinkering and recording, now that Kutsch has moved to San Fransisco.

"We're not too worried about Bill being gone," says Lilley. "Generally, since we've always had weird and difficult circumstances under which to get things done, we'll just have to continue to find other creative ways. There'll probably be a lot of recording and sending files over the Internet. Who knows, it might even work to our benefit, but we definitely have no plans to replace him."

Besides, now that "Soft Skeletons" is in the bag, it's time for the band to hit the road anyway. Before next month's set at SXSW, Call Me Lightning hosts its official CD release party on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Todd Wehr Conference Center with ft (The Shadow Government), Get Rad and Terrior Bute. Keep your ticket stub and use it to get in free to the WMSE & Friends Music Rummage Sale Blowout the next day at MSOE's Student Life & Campus Center, 1025 N. Broadway, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”