Saturday, January 31, 2004

Detroit News - Collideoscope Review

Living Colour, "CollideOscope," (Sanctuary)

By Jason Karas / The Detroit News

The return of Living Colour could be the salvation of heavy metal. While most of today's rockers are content to whine "why me" over and over, Living Colour gives the genre a much needed injection of soul. Formed in the '80s and "discovered" by Rolling Stone lead singer Mick Jagger, the band was known as much for its ferocious riffs and heavy funk as it was for the social underpinnings of its lyrics. The reformed Living Colour returns with a slightly updated sound and a long laundry list of grievances. The band touches on many topics including living with fear in a post-September 11 America ("A ? of When," the cost of heightened homeland security ("Operation Mind Control"), the American war machine ("In Your Name") and urban suffering ("Nightmare City"). The band isn't without a sense of humor, however. A tongue-in-cheek cover of AC/DC's "Back in Black" is a faithful version of the original. With Rage Against the Machine gone, it seems Living Colour is back to be the conscience of rock 'n' roll. GRADE: A

Music Emissions : Living Colour - Collideoscope

Living who? Hmm, oh yeah. I remember these guys. It's been a long, long time since we have heard from them. In fact, I think I remember their last album being Stain and it came out in the early 90's. And you will remember that the band started out as quite a commercial band with songs like "Glamour Boys" and moved slowly and steadily into the metal realm. On Collideoscope, Living Colour actually have no expectations here because no one really expected another album from them. But the label Sanctuary is picking up these older bands that still have something to say. Collideoscope is Living Colour with mixed results. Some of the tracks show them stretching way out of their comfort zone like "Flying" that could possibly be a Seal song. It is radio ready. And even though Living Colour was an originator, I can't help but feel that the people that borrowed from them, like Sevendust and 311, were borrowed from for this album. Some of the music is very interesting and works on a couple levels. On "In Your Name" they try to be technically savvy with bleeps and phasers going in and out of an otherwise fine song. As before, we find a lot of songs in dub reggae style like "Nightmare City". We could do without "Pocket Of Tears". It doesn't have the hooks that we have come to love from Living Colour. An interesting decision was made for Collideoscope, Vernon and the crew decided to cover none other than the AC/DC classic, "Back In Black" and the kick it in the ass, Living Colour style. It's tracks like "Great Expectations" that keep Living Colour standing out after all these years. If you don't have high expectations, Collide0scope might just fit what you are looking for. It's not a groundbreaking album but there is still some very high quality material on here.
(Sanctuary 2003)
Reviewed on 2004-01-12 14:04:11 by Dennis Scanland

Urban Smarts reviews : Living Colour : Collideoscope

Rock used to be a rebel music. But with many of the Rock fans growing old, or older, Rock got established, as well as changed. Now many of those savvy experts and music analysts say that Rock is the new Pop. However, by definition, Rock can not be Pop. It can be popular, but not Pop. Rock is the spit in other people's face. It's the moment you tick out in your room, letting out steam. It's brash, it's uncomfortable, it's loud. All what pop isn't. So you need to wonder if the new generation Rock has gone Pop, or if Pop has gone Rock. It's probably the first case scenario, despite the previously mentioned contradiction.

What all puts Living Colour, the veterans and spearhead of Black Rock stars, in an uncomfortable position. Because they can either adapt to this new environment, put their stamp on the new environment, or just cater to the people that are used to their terms of the trade. In many ways the Colours try a little bit of everything. What does not always lead to good results.

The glam rock is hidden in the distortion of both the vocals and instruments, as practiced on "? Of When" and even more so on "Operation: Mind Control". But in both cases the chorus offers some harmony, while the topic turns to: "it's the battle for America's soul / just try on this straight jacked of conformity / while we force weed you propaganda". That technical aspect of the songs culminates on "In Your Name", where the drum and the glitzy effects sound programmed, further electrifying the music.

The complete contrast appears in the rock-n-roll songs "Holy Roller" and "Back In Black", which are much from a different reality, as they could (should?) be from a different album. "Choices Mash Up" offers the middle ground, while on "Nightmare City", the album covers another area with the reggaeish beginning that quickly mutates in proper rock though.

The complete merging of everything finally completely works on the exciting "Tomorrow Never Knows", where the song finds the wings to rise. Another excellently written piece is "Flying", as Living Colour actually uses the instruments to tell more than just chords. The guitar is cleaner, kinda Claptonist, while the song does not hide behind technical excesses, but rather opens itself in its clarity. The repetitive wording of "Great Expectation" with a honest musical approach, as well as the remote, maybe only subjectively heard Arabic styling of elements in "Lost Halo", are other moments of excellent craftsmanship.

The messages, as already shown by the few quotes, are strongly political, while in abstract ways kept sarcastic as well. Like when "In Your Name" takes the Ready To Rumble Rumsfeld position of 'your with us or against us' stance: "we got bombs and planes / we got plans and people / and we do it in your name". Or attacking the 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' stance with Hunter vocabulary on "Sacred Ground": for those who lie before the bulldozers and chainsaws / battling the devouring megacorps / here they come with their cash draws grins / vampires, parasites and vermin". "Song Without Sin" is a take on propaganda, when Corey Glover admits that "you're more interesting when you're lying" to however quickly put a disclaimer on his own statement: "whatever you're selling I ain't buying". At the same time, the lyrics also consider neutral, personal themes ("Pocket Of Tears"), as well as the obligatory romantic poem, like on "Lost Halo".

Maybe the Colours wanted to do too much at the same time. Not putting an argument forward for doing one style and riding that horse to death. But only seldom do these songs sound like the musicians really mastered the style they intended to do or at least completely commit to them. What keeps the rest in 'work in progress' waters. But they probably didn't wanna sound dated, what they nevertheless do at times. What all gives the four men an uphill battle against the rock the young kiddies know. The elderly (ha) will find their likings in here, especially as there's much a thing to like on this album. The cross generation communication often though suffers.

review : Get@Urbansmarts.com

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