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Living Colour : Collideoscope
Living Colour…you remember them, right? Sure you do! The, the soaring,
ever-so limber vocals of Corey Glover, precision low-end bass of Muzz Skillings,
the airtight percussive barrage of Will Calhoun and the incendiary guitar work
of Vernon Reid…four brilliant musicians out of New York City playing
a genre smashing amalgam of hard rock, punk, funk, jazz, blues and soul long
any of today's chart-topping suburbanites could hold a guitar. Still
remember, huh? Does the song "Cult of Personality" do anything for
you? What about 1988's Grammy-winning, multi-platinum album "Vivid" and
the less successful, but equally brilliant, follow up "Time's Up"?
Ring any bells? I guess I shouldn't even bother to mention 1993's
ultra-dark follow up "Stain", should I? Sugar Hill bassist and
all around virtuoso Doug Wimbish replaced Skillings and helped the band deliver
album that would, unquestionably, be their darkest work. The woefully under
appreciated record would be there final artistic statement for the decade.
Yet, as we entered
a new millennium, we entered a new era for Living Colour. The bands 2000 reunion
show at New York's C.B.G.B.'s led to Sanctuary records 2003 release "CollideØscope".
Let's look at
the disc song by song…
- Song Without Sin – At first listen, you might
think the band has not strayed too far from the sonic template for 1993's "Stain"…and
you would be right. A hermetically sealed groove pushes the band into a
sweeping chorus leading into a slightly middle-eastern tinged, mid-temp
of which perfectly sets the stage for what is to come.
- A ? of When – A strange spoken word noise collage
gives way to what has to be the most laser beam focused slab of metal on
vocals and jagged, meticulous instrumentation hammer home the underlying
theme of paranoia. The vocals, while a tad reparative, help buttress
brought forth in the song. A solid track.
- Operation Mind Control – Here's something you haven't
heard from the band…a rather simple, stripped down, garage tune.
Some may complain about the blow-out sounding production quality and sing-song
quality of the chorus but both lend themselves to the songs central themes
of a brainwashed,
patriot act filled world rife with security cameras.
- Flying – The production and instrumentation are cleaned up for
a quiet, nimble meditation on September 11th. Lyrically, the song boils
down to the most minute, personal level and examines the thoughts of
one, lonely person on that fateful day. Intensely moving and somber.
- In Your Name – The personal "flying" gives way to
the hyper-techno scattershot "In your name". This song has
the band reaching for a new level and on some level succeeds. Scathing,
just plain strange. Loops on top of loops, smothered ultra-funky dub bass
only to be chopped by static-scratched guitar riffs. The end result nearly
off the tracks into a sonic mess, yet somehow manages to remains cohesive
enough to make it's point and then fade out.
- Back in Black – That's right, it's a cover of the
seminal AC/DC tune. The lyrics have a new level of meaning added to them
by Glover and the band, amazingly, remains faithful to the stripped, simple
original. I could have done without the ultra-high register wail of Glover's
vocals, but in the end, the song delivers an amazingly faithful interpretation
of a classic.
- Nightmare City – A big fat reggae dub tune smack dab in the center
of the record… Collectively, the band puts on a good show but ultimately
it just doesn't rise to the fever pitch of the rest of the record.
The intensity and passion are maintained but he plodding groove is the
records first stumbling point. Skip it.
- Lost Halo - A little gem from Vernon Reid's unreleased second
studio record "This Little Room". This beautifully stark tune
sets forth a smoldering groove and gives Corey Glover a moment to really
shine with the
exceptionally heartfelt plea "please don't go". Throw
in a classic Vernon Reid guitar solo and you have a keeper.
- Holy Roller – Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you
to stumbling block number two – the meandering blues wail of Holy Roller.
As with "Nightmare City", even when the song is just "so-so" the
band remains on fire. All components are here - Calhoun and Wimbish display
their amazingly symbiotic relationship as a rhythm section, Reid delivers
a capable solo and Glover wastes no time establishing his unique, guttural
Yet, somehow, it all doesn't add up. What should be a blazingly intense
blues-jam-to-end-all-blues-jams seems like an exercise in technical and
- Great Expectations – Ok, now we're back on track as the
band really gels with this song, and when combined with the next two tunes,
up an incredibly potent triptych of song writing. While "Great Expectations" may
seem easily dismissible upon first listen, upon closer inspection the band
is really establishing a compelling song craft. A very subdued, yet dissonant
jam with a coolly harmonic chorus. Good stuff.
- Happy Shopper – Continuing where the previous song ended, "Happy
Shopper" is equally unassuming upon first listen. The tune starts
off rather slow with an ominous Doug Wimbish bass groove and with the force
an avalanche tumbling down hill, builds into a maelstrom-like condemnation
of consumer culture. The band is focused as a unit and with zero grand
standing brings the tune to a terrific boil. Excellent.
- Pocket of Tears – An extremely heavy song that has none of the
tell-tale signs of being "heavy"? How can this be? Simple, start
with a tight, thudding Doug Wimbish foundation, add in the light, dub-tinged
percussive work of Will Calhoun, throw in a bit of the ghostly agile guitar
work by Vernon Reid and wrap it all up in the hushed, ruminations of a world
that doesn't care, as sung by Corey Glover. The band has mentioned
in concert how this song is thematic sequel to the mocking, yuppie anthem "Glamour
Boys" from 1988's "Vivid"…and lets just say
things didn't end too well for the hollow, trend-hopping, lovers of
excess. The song recounts what could be the final thoughts of a "Glamour
he realizes the world moves on without and he made no mark. Again, there
is no show-boating, just a band entirely focused on a theme and mood…the
end result is intoxicating.
- Sacred Ground – As the group enters the final
stretch, the gather up enough steam to launch one more ferocious attack.
Sacred Ground achieves
where the earlier "In you name" fails by perfectly melding
the aural dissonance and sonic chaos with feverish anger and song structure.
Powerfully anthem-like in it's presentation, Sacred Ground gives
the band members each a brief moment to shine before swirling bedlam fades
song into silence.
Also, it bears mentioning that this song on 1995's compilation "Pride".
While the "Pride" version is appears to have a tad slower tempo
and the demo-like production lends itself to the songs raw anger, the new
version is superior with a texturally varied sound pallet and better production
create a whiling sonic vortex.
- Tomorrow Never Knows / Nova – The band succeeds in climbing the
tricky, slippery slope of covering a Beatles song. As the culmination of
the album, "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a Zen-like sonic stew of
Middle Eastern flavored guitar work, propelled by quick, heartbeat skipping
and bass. The perfect antidote / bookend to the ambiguous paranoia of "A
? of when". Exceptional, soaring, echo-drenched bliss on every level,
perfectly bleeding into the concluding instrumental jam coda of "Nova".
A pitch perfect pallet cleanser for the album, leaving the listener serene
Video: This DVD-A release doesn't have very much to
talk about in this department. With each song the screen displays one static
screen. Instead of an image of the band the band uses what seems like random
images that fit in with the subject of the particular song. Upon closer inspection,
I noticed several of the images are what make up the album's layered cover.
5.1 Mix: The surround mix available on this disc is one
that took a few listens to really grab me. Upon the first few listens, the
mix seemed too lopsided. Meaning, some songs didn't have much surround content
while others were over the top with it. As I listened to it, I began to pick
up more and more subtle, but effective uses for the surround in many of the
songs. The accents on instrumentation and vocalization for the surround really
add to the overall sound and help take a good song up to the next level.
The stereo versions are nice, but don't reach the same level these surround
mixes do. In Your Name is one of the songs that benefit
from this surround mix. The chaos in the stereo version is widened and more
focused because of the synth sounds flying around the room instead of left
Extras: Unfortunately, this release doesn't have all
that many extras. The only video is a nice collage of footage of
the guys playing live in front of various crowds while the studio version
of Song Without Sin plays. A small photogallery and the song lyrics are included
Final Thoughts: After listening to this album on the standard
stereo release for a while, I thought it was a nice return, but not what it
could have been. Upon listening to the entire album with new surround mixes
my opinion has changed. This band is one of those bands that benefit from new
technology and are one step ahead of the pack on most occasions. This newer
format allows for the bands experimentation really shine where the 2 channel
stereo is good, the 5.1 mix makes it much, much better. Even though I don't
think CollideØscope is the best album Living Colour has done, it is
a well made, solid effort with a few songs that are brilliant, some that are
really good and a couple that just don't hold up too well. That being said,
I have no problem giving this a Recommended rating, maybe they will go back
and remix Time's Up and Stained.