A Shade Bolder, Living Colour Is Back
By Michael Deeds
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, October 26, 2003; Page N02
Although Living Colour released three albums before disbanding in 1995, the group is best remembered for the song that made its initial splash: 1988's Grammy-winning anthem "Cult of Personality."
Constructed around a perfectly bludgeoning riff, that terrific hit was almost as effective as its stereotype-shattering video, which became ubiquitous on MTV. The image of four black men cranking out cranium-crushing rock -- vocalist Corey Glover flinging his dreadlocks, guitarist Vernon Reid unleashing avant-garde metal solos -- was foreign and revolutionary to music fans, as was the song's politically charged subject matter.
That's why headbangers have every reason to celebrate the return of this ambitious quartet, which also includes drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Doug Wimbish. Living Colour's dynamic fourth album, "Collideoscope," isn't just a comeback. It's a raised fist and a battle cry.
The opening track, "Song Without Sin," is a lesson for today's nu-metal elite: Reid's guttural guitar is ferocious but paced, and his rhythmic approach emphasizes the silence between riffs, making the power chords that much denser. Meanwhile, Glover's instantly recognizable voice -- wrenched with passion and focused on melody -- perfectly counteracts Reid's sonic brutality throughout the album.
Living Colour has plenty to say on "Collideoscope," which covers an array of subjects and musical styles: anxiety (blues scorcher "Holy Roller"), Big Brother (the grinding "Operation: Mind Control") and war protest (industrial-metal track "In Your Name"). The Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks provide the framework for a handful of songs. The ethereal, smooth-grooved "Flying" tells, in first person, the sad story of a man who gets the nerve to ask out a woman in the World Trade Center -- moments before the plane hits: "Fate has given me wings / Such a terrible, funny thing," he sings as the couple jump to their death holding hands. The other terrorist attack-inspired standout, "A ? of When," is a frantic, relentless charge about living in fear. "Can it happen again? / Not a question of if / But a question of when!" Glover shrieks while Reid pummels his ax like a madman.
Even when Living Colour joyfully plows through a sizzling cover of AC/DC's "Back in Black," it feels like a statement. Song title notwithstanding, the lyric "They've got to catch me if they want me to hang" takes on new meaning coming from Glover's mouth.
Reid spits out more notes during the "Back in Black" guitar solo than Angus Young probably played on that entire AC/DC album -- a trend that permeates "Collideoscope." Influenced by jazz and punk, his leads are Gatling gun bursts often completely outside the song's parameters.
Somehow he's able to pull the ripcord and parachute back in, even on the soulful, easygoing "Lost Halo." But for the more casual rock listener, it can be jarring to have a zillion notes explode in your face.
Then again, Reid and the rest of Living Colour want to be noticed. (Why else would they cover the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows"?) "Collideoscope" not only jumps up and down screaming to be heard, it also raises the whammy bar for the rest of the hard-rock universe.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8161.)
Living Colour Collideoscope DVD audio- November 18th
pre-order through CD Universe
Vernon Reid Interview w/ Metal Refuge
3 more reviews
StlToday review of Collideoscope
another Collideoscope Review
Rolling Stone Review - Collideoscope
**** (4 stars)
Black-funk-metal pioneers return in righteous form when black-rock warriors living Colour broke up in 1995, they left the high promise of their apocalyptic funk in the hands of crying clowns, white metalheads endlessly rapping about their own agony. Guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Will Calhoun, bassist Doug Wimbish and singer Corey Glover now return to shame the whiners with righteous choler and elevated invention: the kamikaze rush and raw-sugar chorus of "A ? of When"; Reid's wah-wah teardrops amid the brute-reggae devastation in "Nightmare City"; the electrodread of "In Your Name," a howling-techno prayer against White House imperialism, here and abroad. There was always a great paisley-soul band kicking inside all the noise - it's here, loud and clean, in the ballad "Flying." And Living Colour cover AC/DC's "Back in Black" with grand funk: boom- ing comic relief seared with no-nonsense mission.
(RS 935, November 13, 2003)