Friday, October 10, 2003

Living Colour - Collideoscope Reviews

Underdog Online Review of COLLIDEOSCOPE

Author: Peter Hodgson

There's always an anxious moment when one of your favourite bands releases a new album, and especially so when they've reunited after a decade apart.

Living Colour were always a little ahead of their time, so now that everyone incorporates the heavy guitars, samples and beats that were a part of their sound for so long, how would they fare in the current climate? And, like George Lucas before them, would another vestige of my teen years spit in my face with an overworked, emotionless facsimile of what once was? The fact that my fears have been proven totally unfounded is perfectly evident in the silly grin I've had on my face ever since pressing 'play' on my discman about 20 hours ago, and the four AA batteries that have heroically forfeited their lives since then.

From the opening skittery electronic flurry of 'Song Without Sin,' it's face-smackingly evident that this is the Living Colour who made the abrasive 'Stain.' The guitar tones have the same sharp teeth as that album, and the vocals are treated in the same way, with Corey Glover's natural voice front and centre, but augmented by stereo effects here and there. The opening of second track 'A ? of When' had me spitting Coke out my nose - it's just that cool. The pun of the album title is very apt, as the music combines percussive, hard-edged rock with colourful psychedelia and comes up with a sound which continually feeds on itself and evolves throughout its 61 minutes.

Unlike 'Stain,' which barely took a moment to breathe amidst the math-rock firestorm, Collideoscope's heavier tracks are tempered by 'Flying,' 'Nightmare City' and 'Pocket of Tears,' three spacious grooves with heavenly vocal melodies and superb bass interjections by Doug Wimbish. 'Flying' in particular stands as one of the strongest songs the band has ever written, telling the deeply personal story of a guy who clocks in at work in the World Trade Centre on the morning of September 11, finally resolving himself to ask his crush out on a date.

The events of that day and their aftermath are referenced often in the first half of the album, and not always in such personal terms. 'A ? of When' and 'Operation: Mind Control' take critical stabs at the constant state of terror alert and big brotherism clouding the western world. Living Colour have never been without irony, so their cover of AC/DC's 'Back in Black' is a welcome addition to the catalogue, conceptually and musically, with Glover affectionately mimicking Brian Johnson's high shriek and guitarist Vernon Reid swinging from Angus Young to Jimi Hendrix to Frank Zappa.

I wish there was something negative to say about this album so I don't come across as such a fawning fan, but this is the first CD I've heard in a long long time that I've been unable to find fault with. It's energized, complex, beautiful, brutal and thoughtful, and every time you listen to it you will hear something new.

Collideoscope is out now through Mayan/Sanctuary.

Cleveland Scene Review Of COLLIDEOSCOPE
by Dan LeRoy
When a band's been largely out of action for a decade, a comeback usually entails a restatement of themes. In the case of Living Colour, that would mean the soulful, Zeppelinesque stomp that powered "Cult of Personality" and other late-'80s blasts, opening many ears to the idea that four black musicians could shred just as convincingly as their white metal counterparts. Considering that the concept of black rock stars hasn't gained much traction since then, one might suppose that Living Colour would have to try doubly hard to remind listeners of its arena-sized bona fides.
Surprisingly -- and fortunately -- Collideoscope is a very different album, one that bears the heavy stamp of bassist and executive producer Doug Wimbish. Most of these songs are informed by his work with groundbreaking outfits like Tackhead, with dub and electronic undercurrents casting shadowy tendrils around Vernon Reid's guitar squalls. That hardly dilutes the band's power: "Choices Mash Up" covers the On-U-Sound classic "Happy Shopper" for a bludgeoning critique of consumerism, while the paranoid "A ? of When" is a direct descendant of "Hellhound on My Trail," with Corey Glover screaming "Who do you love?/Who do you hate?/Who do you love?/Who's at the gate?"

The tune that will attract the most notice is undoubtedly the brave and conceptually brilliant cover of AC/DC's "Back in Black," a straight shot of rock that treats its Aussie authors right. In reality, though, it's the surrounding dark-hued tunes that prove Living Colour is back, black, and rightfully proud.

Collideoscope Review

Metal innovators' return pleases

Pete Oliva
Beat Editor
October 08, 2003

Living Colour
Sanctuary Records
Rating: B-
Over 10 years ago, Living Colour brought politically charged messages to the masses, simultaneously breaking black artists into the realm of heavy metal with their 1988 album Vivid.

Now, Collideoscope, the band's first new release in nearly five years, finds the group experimenting with new sounds and production techniques while still grasping the key elements of their musical character.

The good news is that Collideoscope succeeds on most levels. The relief of hearing that the opening "Song Without Sin" bears little resemblance to any of their 1980's material allows for the letting down of any hesitance in believing that a half-decade hiatus can still yield fresh music.

If anything, though, it sounds a little like Sevendust, a '90s band that owes some of its style to Living Colour.

Even better than the opener is "A ? Of When," featuring the high-energy grind of guitarist Vernon Reid's nimble verse riff matched with Corey Glover's short, accentuated screams.

Glover's vocal agility becomes evident as the verse gives way to a beautifully sung melodic chorus, kept alive by the rhythm section of bassist Muzz Skillings and drummer Will Calhoun.

The experimentation of the band throughout keeps the album alive, though, and ensures that Collideoscope becomes more than just a rehash of Living Colour's earlier work.

"Nightmare City" may be the first-ever successful fusion of reggae and metal, while covers of AC/DC's "Back in Black" and The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" entertain listeners through their inspired performance.

The former's straightforwardness works to balance the latter's unusual, yet effective, take on the classic song.

This unconventional experimentation, though, hurts the album as a whole.

The simplistic, yet unnecessarily muddy sounding "Operation: Mind Control," while offering politically- themed lyrics, loses its message as the band clearly attempts to sound like something it is not with overly distorted vocals and instruments.

"In Your Name" similarly loses the effectiveness of its anti-war message through overproduction and an electronica-based groove that that does little to improve its aural picture.

Still, with the touching "Flying," the distinctly Living Colour-esque "Holy Roller" and "Sacred Ground," the album's best song, it's hard to harshly fault the band for its missteps.

And while the new album proves that often a band sounds best just being themselves, sometimes it takes experimenting to get the creative energy alive again.

Living Colour has not sounded this alive, or colorful, in years


Living Colour returns from the missing with "Collideoscope" (Sanctuary), enriched with a heady collage of styles, from the funkified challenge of "A ? of When" to the slinky, trippy "Flying" and the techno/metallic-edged protest "In Your Name." Likewise juicy are the reggae-fied "Nightmare City," blues-scorched "Holy Roller" and a slashing cover of AC/DC's "Back in Black." A real headphone trip. A-
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